The knock-on effect of panic buying – a plea from the Voluntary sector

In response to the announcement made by Boris Johnson on Tuesday 22nd, supermarkets across the country have seen an increase in panic buying.  Voluntary and Community Sector organisations across Calderdale share their experiences of the impact panic buying in March had for them and their vulnerable service users.

Our Place runs a weekend day service in Halifax for older people and found it increasingly difficult to support their guests with the essentials when the country went into lockdown on March 23rd.  With product limits per customer coming in to effect as a result of panic buying, they struggled to support all of their service users on weekly shopping trips.  Mel Rumble from Our Place said:

“Our guests and their carers struggled to get the basics they needed due to shelves being empty, some were entitled to the vulnerable people help available but many of our guests don’t have computers and some don’t have family to do things for them.

We needed items for our activity and support packs but the shelves were empty.  Then the limits came in on what you could buy – we were supporting 50+ people! We ended up having to get an official letter from our commissioner at Calderdale Council stating what service we were providing and quantities we needed to buy in. This helped but a lot of places wouldn’t honour it, we were even told by one supermarket that the only way we could do it was to get each volunteer to go in separately and purchase the limited amounts, until we had enough.

I am seriously hoping this does not happen again, we ended up having to source a lot of our items online and even they were sold out of most things.”

Focus 4 Hope, based in Brighouse, provide essential support to homeless and vulnerable people.  During lockdown, Focus 4 Hope have continuously run a food bank and delivery service to those in need.  In response to the recent panic buying, Louise Reed, Founder of Focus 4 Hope said:

“We are very concerned about this and I have had both Morrisons and Tesco contact me saying that people are panic buying and this could cause major issues for us running our emergency food bank.  During the beginning back in March & April this caused us big problems as we struggled to be able to buy the quantities of food we needed to effectively run our food bank and support our community. Even though we have great relationships with our local supermarkets the restrictions of amounts you could buy applied and therefore they couldn’t support us. We had to go to so many different stores, cash and carry’s etc which was difficult and took lots of time.  We have put a contingency plan in place and yesterday we put a huge order in for us to be very well stocked up to ensure we can continue with our food bank. Our numbers are again slowly on the increase as people are now having to isolate, becoming ill or losing their jobs and struggling financially.

We would like to ask people to think before they panic buy. Shops will not be closing and supplies will be ok as long as people do not continue to panic buy. It broke our hearts when there were pictures emerging of empty shelves in supermarkets and elderly people not being able to buy their essentials. We had many elderly in particular call us very frightened and worried as they could not buy the shopping they needed.”

During national lockdown, several community led initiatives were set up across Calderdale to support the vulnerable with food, prescriptions and weekly shops.  Janet Lymer from Calderdale Community Cares, based in Hebden Bridge, said:

“We are very concerned about panic buying and the effect this has on our older generations, and those with a limited food budget.  We have over 240 people on our register, who rely on us to provide support, shopping, and other service to help keep their spirits up, and this wholesale clearing out of supermarket shelves has an immediate impact on these groups of people.  They are left without the provisions they need, often resulting in them making additional trips to the shops, and exposing themselves more than is necessary to coronavirus”

Caroline Beardsmore for Your Tod Squad also added her concerns and said:

“We appeal to people, during these times, to please put the community above their own short term need to stockpile on the basics leaving others without.”

In response to these very real concerns which will have a devastating impact on many at risk and vulnerable people, Dipika Kaushal CEO of VAC, one of the six partners in the VSI Alliance, stated

 “As a result of our experiences in March and the problems panic buying created for people, groups and communities most vulnerable and at risk both in Calderdale and nationally, it is so important we look out for our neighbours and communities during this time.  We know that shortages in food and essential items was purely down to panic buying and stockpiling.  If this had not been the case then there was more than enough to meet everyone’s needs.

If we are to get through the coming months and years then we need to look after ourselves and, through our actions, ensure we look after our communities and especially those who are most vulnerable and in need.  The voluntary and community sector tirelessly work to ensure people have the support they need; today our sector needs Calderdale’s help to ensure they can provide what is essential for those most in need to stay safe and well.  The way to help will not cost anything but our plea is for people to stop panic buying and in fact if you are buying more than you need then please do not waste or dispose items but instead donate to a local organisation or food bank.  This is an amazing place so let’s continue to be amazing in all we do to come out stronger, united and resilient.”

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