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Coronavirus: Stonebridge foodbank charity operating in a ‘toxic mess’

PUBLISHED: 12:05 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:05 18 March 2020

A Sufra volunteer AbdalKarim Sama gathering food for parcels as coronavirus means people can't enter property

A Sufra volunteer AbdalKarim Sama gathering food for parcels as coronavirus means people can't enter property

Archant

A Stonebridge foodbank charity has launched an appeal in the hope of surviving a ‘toxic mess’ made worse by coronavirus.

Sufra voluteers in the kitchen as charity launches coronavirus appeal. PIcture: SufraSufra voluteers in the kitchen as charity launches coronavirus appeal. PIcture: Sufra

Sufra Foodbank and Kitchen in Pitfield Way, has cancelled most of its services and is now distributing “pared-down food parcels”.

The charity is remaining operational during the Covid-19 pandemic with measures in place to make sure it survives a future recession.

“Things are pretty bad here,” said director Rajesh Makwana. “We’re having to think on our feet on how to reorganise the entire charity from top to bottom.

“We’ve had to shut down non-essential services, courses and programmes and we’re focussing on reorganising our core services.

“The foodbank can’t operate any more from inside the building because it’s too risky.

“It’s all prepacked food given to people outside, a minimum number of volunteers, no additional services provided.

“We’ve reorganised the community kitchen and now give people takeaway tubs at the door.

“It’s heartbreaking to have to do this, we’re devastated, but we have to protect our guests, our volunteers and our staff.”

He said the charity has had trouble accessing food. Staff put in a £3,000 order to their wholesaler and were only able to obtain £600 worth of food.

“They have a backlog of orders and we can’t get the things we need,” he added.

The charity’s benefit, housing and immigration advice is now by phone only. It is looking at launching a delivery service.

“It’s likely we’ll shift to that model almost immediately, we’re just sorting out the logistics,” he said. “This has been a week of almost daily crisis talks. It’s fast changing. A week ago, there was no sense of any real issues certainly from a formal government perspective.

“We’ve launched a coronavirus emergency appeal. We don’t know what the future holds for us. We do know staff will self isolate, volunteers will drop.

“A massive global recession is coming, so we need to put funding in place to make sure the charity is viable for the longer term.

“It’s feeling very strange right now, seeing a disaster unfold in front of your eyes knowing it’s going to hit you.

“You look at the welfare system, universal credit, increasing levels of poverty and inequality, Brexit and rents, you add that together and it’s a toxic mess. We’re trying to operate in that.”

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