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Coronavirus Kent: Police presence requested at Medway Trussell Trust food banks

Police will have a presence at food bank locations across Medway, after concerns were raised for the safety of staff and stock during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Councillors recommended the move during cross party talks this week, which will see Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) checking on the locations as often as they can.

Volunteers unload supplies at a Trussell Trust food bank
Volunteers unload supplies at a Trussell Trust food bank

Lorraine Schulze, project manager for Medway's network of eight Trussell Trust food banks, explained the move is only a precautionary measure.

She said: "We're extremely grateful to local councillors and Kent Police who organised for PCSOs to have some presence at food bank sessions.

"They're not guaranteeing they're going to be there all the time, because they have other things to do.

"But it's really good because it makes it all feel safer for everybody."

Concerns were raised after reports of supermarket panic buying and empty shelves across the county and the rest of the UK.

More than 150 volunteers work across the eight food bank centres in Medway
More than 150 volunteers work across the eight food bank centres in Medway

Mrs Schulze has also been informed that food donation points in supermarkets across Medway have had to be removed as shoppers have tried to take items for themselves.

She said: "It's a sad state of affairs when the supermarkets have had to put away our permanent collection points because people have been trying to take things out of them.

"We need the stock and they've had to put the collection points into cupboards so people now have to go to customer services to donate an item instead of just dropping it into the basket."

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Mrs Schulze says the food banks in Medway are operating well, but asks all customers to bear with them as they continue to distribute food to those in desperate need.

The Medway network of food banks has seen the number of people relying on its handouts increase by 39% between January to December 2018 and January to December 2019.

Earlier this month, speaking to KentOnline, Mrs Schulze said she was looking for a larger warehouse for stock as demand for the service continued to increase.

She said: "The last thing we want to do is to get a bigger warehouse premises; our plan would be to downsize to have less food bank centres in Medway, but this is the situation."

The Trussell Trust were approached to find out if similar provisions for police support were being applied to other food bank locations across the county.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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