THE poorest and must vulnerable people in Oxford may face going hungry because of an expected massive fall in donations to the city's food bank because of the coronavirus shutdown.

While empty supermarket shelves and the closure of businesses are presenting problems to householders and traders, the ongoing crisis spells disaster for those who rely on the Oxford Food Bank for handouts.

The charity usually collects a ton of food a day from commercial kitchens and supermarkets, which it then hands out to more than 100 charities, homes, homeless shelters and community centres.

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Last week donations fell by half, sparking fears that supplies would run dry. And, while the weekend brought a surge of donations as colleges, hotels and kitchens closed down, they fear those supplies will soon run dry, leaving the needy high and dry.

At the same time, they expect a surge in demand from people now out of work because of the shutdown, who may find themselves unable to feed their families.

Oxford Mail:

Cathy Howard is the manager of the Botley-based charity, which was set up to prevent food from going to waste.

She said: "This is a really difficult time.

"Supermarkets are too busy and are seeing their shelves ransacked on a daily basis.

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"Then you've got everyone from wholesale suppliers to colleges scaling down as the catering industry closes down, meaning there's not enough food in the system.

"Charities are also closing down, but now is the time people need our help – and we want to support them in any way we can.

"People will go hungry. But there are caterers out there with food they can't use, and we can collect it. We want to stop food going to waste and getting it to the people who need it."

Volunteer and food bank administrator Emma Tinker thanked everyone who had already donated.

Oxford Mail:

She went on: "As colleges and restaurants close down we have been jammed to the gills, but that's a temporary blip and it's not going to last. We have no idea what will happen this week.

"Things are changing from one hour to the next and some of the charities we deliver to are closing down. For people in need this must be truly terrifying, and we are doing everything we can to help.

"We are saying to donors – please don't use up all your generosity at once; we are in for a long haul."

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Among those helping out is baker Julia Atkinson of Summertown-based Happy Cakes.

Using supplies donated by the food bank, she has baked cakes for The Gatehouse, a drop in centre for the homeless, vulnerably housed and those in need, in Woodstock Road, Oxford.

Oxford Mail:

She said: "We are very quiet at Happy Cakes having had lots of orders cancelled.

"We decided that it would be great to use our skills and time constructively and thought it would be good to bake for a charity.

"Having worked with Oxford Foodbank previously we contacted Cathy, who donated surplus fruit and vegetables.

"We are starting with banana muffins and chocolate and courgette cupcakes. Cupcakes and muffins are great as the clients will be able to take them away. It feels good to be doing something that supports the local community – and we love what we do."

Oxford Mail:

Moznu Miah, owner of Tiffins tandoori restaurant in Kidlington, said restaurants were having to reduce supplies because of falling trade, but said he would be happy to donate excess food to the food bank – and encouraged other restaurants to do the same.

He said: "We must look after the poorest and most needy members of our community at this difficult time."

Mr Miah is also offering NHS staff a 20 per cent discount, on production of a card, for takeaways and offered to deliver food, for no extra cost, for staff at hospitals and GP surgeries within the city.