Noor food bank serves 270 meals in one day as referrals soar, says Preston doctor
Dr Bilal Patel, who helped to set up an award-shortlisted food bank at Noor Masjid mosque in Preston more than 18 months ago, says it is now taking referrals by email after serving 270 meals on Monday.
Volunteers normally help to feed 20-30 people every Monday - but the total has soared to a staggering 216, including 130 children, in just seven days.
The 46-year-old, a consultant cardiologist at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: "Since the schools closed, referrals have shot up dramatically. So many families were struggling before the crisis but now there are more.
"At times like this, people need help more than ever.
"And now your community needs you. Now is the time to be active in support of the vulnerable."
The dad-of-four added: "A few years ago, you wouldn't have even heard of food banks. But it's surprising how much poverty there is, even before the outbreak. You just wouldn't expect it in Britain.
"But now even more children are going hungry."
He adds that more people could find themselves on the breadline as the gig economy crumbles.
"We're worried the situation is going to get worse. Many more people are having to live hand-to-mouth, as people doing odd-jobs might find themselves out of work," he said.
"We're not sure if we can keep up with demand.
"Before all this, many were on Universal Credit, between jobs and had young families.
"For them, the food bank is a lifeline at the best of times.
"Many people are struggling with job problems and their children are no longer getting meals at school."
The food bank is generally well-stocked but is running low on long-life
and has a team of 20-plus key volunteers - from college students to full-time professionals - but Bilal says they are planning for 40 to 50 per cent to go on sick.
"Both the Preston public and supermarkets have been extremely generous, and we receive regular donations from Morrison's and Asda," he said.
Other donations have come from BAE, Howler Events, Lidl and Booths.
"And our volunteers are fantastic. They've shown complete selflessness and bravery, as well as care and compassion," Bilal added.
"Times like these can bring out the best in people. They all have jobs in the day time but they're going out of their way to provide food in their own time, while some people are stock-piling."
To make a donation, please email [email protected] to arrange for items to be picked up.