A SWINDON food bank will reopen next week after the coronavirus forced it to pause its services.

Swindon Food Collective stopped work earlier this week following the government’s advice for people to stay home except in limited circumstances. But from Monday it will offer an adapted service.

“We know we provide an incredibly important service to people in Swindon,” said manager Cher Smith.

“And if the food bank goes down then we really are in dire straits.

“We’ve took the decision partly for self-preservation. Lots of volunteers are in the vulnerable age groups and so about 50 per cent are self-isolating,” she explained.

The adapted service will see people able to collect food from four locations, instead of the usual seven – Royal Wootton Bassett, Highworth, Freshbrook and St Aldhelm’s Centre in the centre of Swindon.

“This will mean people perhaps have to travel a bit further to get to us.

"But we don’t have the drivers or the volunteers and we’re having to cut our cloth to that and protect our volunteers.”

Cher said that before the government’s announcement last Monday, visitor numbers to the food bank were high.

She continued: “We were rather overwhelmed with people last Thursday and Friday.At our main site St Aldhelm’s Centre, we had queues outside and right round the corner.

“Last year we fed 6,200 people and it could easily be 7,000 this year. With this virus and schools closing, the elderly, people who are unemployed and being made redundant, soon people’s rent and mortgages are really going to bite into their budgets.

“The schools closure had a major effect on us, but hopefully it will pace itself over the next few weeks,” she added

“We want to remind everyone that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re trying to make sure people come only when they need to. We’re there for people in crisis, in emergencies,” she said.

At the same time donations have dropped off as demand has increased.

“We’re only collecting from major supermarkets now, no schools or churches,” she said.

The situation will be reviewed weekly.

Call 07932 108732 for addresses and opening times for the centres open next week or visit swindonfoodcollective.org