A foodbank has been forced to shut down – after callous thieves broke in and stole £500 worth of supplies amid coronavirus hysteria.
Raiders gained entry to a storage container and made off with essentials including sanitary towels and toilet rolls.
Meanwhile a number of foodbanks around the country have reported people stealing from supermarket donation points.
One volunteer pleaded for people to stop “stealing food from vulnerable people’s mouths” and MP Yvette Cooper described the thefts as “appalling”.
The shocking scenes come as more and more people need to access to foodbanks, at a time when donations are expected to drop.
Janet Burns said the West Yorkshire centre she manages, Knottingley Foodbank, was robbed at 6pm on Wednesday (18/3).
Police have confirmed they are investigating the crime, thought to be carried out by four men, and are looking at CCTV from the area.
Janet said: “I got a phone call at home from one of the neighbours that overlooks our containers. She’d noticed there was a door open in one of the units.
“Her husband went to investigate and bumped into someone who’d seen four men loading food up, so I phoned the police.
“They took everything. We’d had a massive donation of toiletries and female products on Tuesday.
“Our stocks are so depleted now that we can’t carry on.
“We’ve been so busy this afternoon, we’ve had people queuing at the door and we’re just having to turn them away.”
Local MP Yvette Cooper has called on the community to do their bit to support the centre as it recover from the theft.
She has contacted local supermarkets to ask them to lift their purchase limits to allow the foodbank to restock.
Ms Cooper said: “It is truly appalling that someone could do this – at a time when families need help more than ever – with children not going to school and many people unable to work.
“This is a time when we should be pulling together and helping each other.
“If someone has done this in order to make profit from other people’s desperation that is a shocking and shameful crime.
The founder of a centre in Lincoln called The Sincil Foodbank has spoken out about supermarket shoppers stealing from donation points.
Craig Rouse said: “We’ve been notified by Tesco that people have been stealing food from our in-store collection baskets.
“This is a really tough time for us so that is the last thing we need, we could do with all the help we can get.
“It’s really disheartening to see food get literally taken from some of society’s most vulnerable people.”
He added: “People seem to be gripped by panic at the moment and the country is in a state of hysteria.
“I want to encourage people to stay calm, so that we can prevent this kind of thing from happening.”
The Sincil Foodbank hands out up to a tonne of food per week to hundreds of people in need.
The Somer Valley Food Bank in Somerset has had to close two of its centres as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Coordinator Paul Woodward said donations have gone down and that volunteers, many of whom are over 70, cannot work.
Ms Cooper said: “At this hugely difficult and disruptive time for our country, we need to pull together and support each other more than ever.”