Coronavirus: Penwortham mum launches digital food bank to help battle impact of Covid-19 'tsunami'
"We're not poor people of heart and spirit. We're self-isolating but we're still together. We're all the movement."
That is the battle cry of a Penwortham mum who has set up a digital food bank to help vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.
Mum-of-four Bridie Lindsay is calling on people to do their bit to help tackle the impact of the Covid-19 "tsunami" by supporting the Digital Food Bank North West.
The 44-year-old hopes it will ease the pressure off traditional food banks, whose elderly volunteers are self-isolating.
Bridie said: "I saw the news a couple of weeks ago and it got me thinking how unfair and unjust the world can be.
"Food banks are having trouble, and many volunteers are elderly and will have to self-isolate."
Commenting on the hard work of volunteers all year round, she added: "They're the real heroes. They have been doing this for years. Some have been working their whole lives and then volunteer in food banks. I take my hat off to them."
But she says the community must now rally round those who are working tirelessly to replenish food bank stocks and deliver daily essentials to people in need, despite facing challenges like stock-piling and depleted volunteer numbers.
"In a couple of weeks, I can see people asking why the Government hasn't planned for this. It feels like things are going to get worse before they get better," she said.
"People need to be fed. Women in refuges have had to flee trauma with their children and have no money coming in. And if people are working zero-hour contracts and small businesses close, how are they going to have money to buy food?
"There could potentially be a massive spike in people using food banks at a time when others are stockpiling. And with less volunteers, it's a disaster waiting to happen and food banks might need to close their doors."
Bridie was inspired to launch the scheme after realising the potential impact of the virus on people like her mum, who has limited mobility.
"I'm self-isolating because I live with my mum and she has MS, so she could potentially lose her life if I was to bring something in. She has already had so many struggles and I don't want the virus to give her a difficult death," she said.
But she knows that many people are in the same boat, adding: "This was all happening before Covid-19."
Now is a vital time to plan for a potential economic crisis that will hit vulnerable people the hardest, she says.
"It's like the time before a tsunami comes. We can already see the wave coming because of austerity," she said.
"I'm not trying to scare anyone but we need to prevent a possible crisis, which we know is on the way. Why not prepare?
"It's like the chicken and egg dilemma - and we're at the egg phase."
As volunteers drop off, food banks will struggle to pack and deliver food, says Bridie.
That's why the digital food bank allows people to donate money online. The funds will be given to directly to food banks or will be used to order items from supermarkets, which will be sent to someone in need.
She is also campaigning to introduce a voucher system, allowing food bank users to buy essential items in major supermarkets.
And if people cannot travel to a traditional referrer like a church or social worker, then they can contact the digital food bank who will liaise with a referrer on their behalf.
Bridie says she has been inspired by how people have put aside their own worries to help others - and hopes the community spirit will only grow stronger over the coming weeks.
"There was a 60 or 70-year study that followed a group of people throughout their whole life. They all agreed that what made them happy were strong and meaningful relationships," she said.
"We're all been striving to be unique, different and successful but what matters are relationships, the little things, and helping others.
"People have been popping paracetamols and nappies through neighbours' doors. It shows we still have a section of the community where people are looking out for their neighbours."
But it's clear we need to do more, she adds.
"A lot of money needs to be raised. If you're self-isolating, you might not be able to physically help but you can do so much online," she said.
"I like what the French said: 'We have a war coming and we need to be rationing. We have a common enemy and we need to work together.'"
To make a donation or for more information, please visit https://www.digitalfoodbank.org