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From panic buying to food banks: how Britain fed itself in the first phase of coronavirus

From farmers to supermarket chiefs to frontline workers, this is the inside story of the food supply chain and Covid-19. Were we prepared for the storm – and what happens next? Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverageFor Kim McMaster the crisis began on 21 March. Each Saturday night she visits the vast Tesco Extra on Sheffield’s Savile Street to collect surplus food on behalf of the Norfolk Park Tenants and Residents Association. It’s then redistributed to about 100 people in need through a community pantry scheme run out of a local church. “Normally there will be eight to 10 trays waiting for us,” she says. “Fresh fruit, veg, eggs, bread, a full mix.” That Saturday there were no fresh vegetables at all. There really wasn’t much of anything. “There were just two trays. The manager was very upset. He said the shop had been stripped bare so there wasn’t any surplus.”In London, at the Deptford headquarters of FareShare, the charity which redistributes food from throughout the supply chain that would otherwise go to waste, the story was becoming horribly familiar. As well as receiving deliveries direct from supermarkets and producers into their warehouses, FareShare has 7,000 affiliated charities across the country – food banks, community kitchens and the like – which, as with the Norfolk Park group , collect surplus direct from individual branches. But those supermarkets suddenly had nothing to give. “Almost overnight these charities had their supply cut off at the knees,” says the chief executive, Lindsay Boswell. “There was nothing we could do.”We were seeing over multiple days sales we would expect to see over the one peak day in the run-up to ChristmasI’m terrified of the long-term, of the number of people who are going to need frontline charities for a while to come Continue reading…