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Food banks facing up to 'challenge' ahead

Food banks in Northern Ireland are making contingency plans to ensure service users continue to receive support amid the growing coronavirus pandemic crisis.

The Trussell Trust described the impact of the virus as an "unprecedented challenge" facing the organisation, which operates 38 food banks here.

In recent days as the number of diagnosed cases in the UK has risen, food banks across the regions have reported donations falling due to panic-buying.

The North Belfast Advice Centre also tweeted a picture of its largely empty food bank stock cupboard.

"Our shelves are bare as we are struggling to meet demand, and with panic buying we are finding it difficult to stock up on our main items," it posted. "These are worrying times for us all but even more so when you are struggling financially. If you can donate, we would be really grateful."

However, Edel Diamond, manager of the Trust's South-West Belfast Foodbank, said its supplies remain healthy.

"We're not experiencing any major shortages. We're still getting continual donations, thankfully. Coming up to Christmas we had a big number of donations which left us very well stocked up," she said.

"With surpluses we would normally distribute them to other organisations, but in this situation, it's actually helping us."

Richard Thompson, manager of Armagh Food Bank, also reported that so far panic-buying had not had an impact on its intake.

In a statement, the Trussell Trust admitted it was unsure "how things will unfold", but said it is working to ensure it operates as normal. "This is an unprecedented challenge... we're working with our network on how best to support people, and wherever possible, food banks will continue to provide the lifeline of emergency food," it read.

Belfast Telegraph