STAFF at Worcester Foodbank say they are under immense pressure due to an unprecedented demand for food at the same time as a significant drop in donations.

Martin Boniface, Worcester Foodbank’s deputy warehouse and duty manager said: “The outbreak has fuelled a rise in referrals and demand is already up more than 40 percent compared to the same time last year.

“More people also need food delivered to their doorstep due to having to self-isolate. We’re currently providing up to 130 food parcels every week.

“It’s desperately sad to see so many people turning to us for the first time due to the impact the outbreak has had on their income or job.

“A further knock on effect is the closure of schools which has left many cash-strapped parents having to find extra money to feed their children in the absence of free school meals.

“We’re doing everything we can to stand in the gap but it’s getting tougher with every passing week.

“Supermarket restrictions make it very difficult for us. Although supermarkets have increased the number of other items we may purchase to ten per time, with diminished stocks at supermarkets and growing client demand, this is just not enough.

“The warehouse was reasonably well stocked after Christmas but we’re now giving out far more food than is coming in and gaps are appearing on our shelves.

“More people are donating money which is fantastic but we’re still hampered by not being able to buy supplies in bulk.”

Government restrictions now mean that people using the Foodbank are not allowed in and volunteers have been reduced.

Mr Boniface said: “We take the government guidance very seriously but that has meant about 50 per cent of our volunteers have had to stay away from the warehouse.

“Our volunteers hate not being able to chat to our clients over a cup of tea while the food parcel is being prepared.

“Many people crave a listening ear as much as food and chatting to them helps us to understand the wider struggles they are facing.

“It’s so much harder to spot the signs of domestic violence or exploitation at work when you’re not able to spend that precious time with clients.

“Our clients have been very good natured in accepting how we are dealing with these unprecedented challenges.”