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A Redbridge-based charity has called for changes to the local shopping regime to enable charities essential NHS and other emergency staff to get their
essential shopping done to maximise their efficiency at work.
British Asian Christian Association has warned that to feed the regular homeless visitors that attend their centre in Ilford has become nigh on impossible due to exaggerated shopping queues and panic buying, that leave them having to visit at least 6 stores to provide their services legally.
Yesterday at Costco Walthamstow a sign that was up before shoppers began at 9.30 warned that over 10 items had been sold out within their store and were not replenished - which triggered a mini-panic.
Queues that were over 500 ft long with shoppers and trolleys meant that the whole shopping experience was taking a minimum of 3 hours. Worse still, staff positioned along the queue, were informing shoppers that there was no guarantee that any of their desired products would be available by the time of their turn. Shoppers losing their impatience were claiming to be NHS staff despite having no badge, while others were trying to use aggression to force their way into the front of the queue. The police were called several times and the fashing blues and twos of the police is becoming all to common a feature at supermarkets.
Although BACA got most of the food and products they needed for their 'Meals for the Homeless' project they still had to visit two other supermarkets to complete their shop.
Juliet Chowdhry, who leads the project said:
"Our volunteers cannot afford to take so much time for shopping they have families to care for.
"Moreover, joining large queues like yesterdays increases the chances of infection with COVID-19.
"The social distancing measures that supermarkets are implementing only work when those around you are willing to cooperate, which is not that often.
"Disinfection of trolleys only works for the first use, these trolleys are then being passed on to others without cleansing as people rush to get into the queue"
BACA believes that local supermarkets should now develop improved shopper calming measures, such as the restriction of entrance to customers by shopping by way of a proven postcode region on a certain day. One member of staff could easily check some form of ID with an address on certain days.
Costco itself runs on a membership policy so they could easily restrict the use of cards to certain days using a set, fair criteria. As long as they told their customers well in advance this should not cause an onerous problem.
Whatever action plan is implemented it must be done soon, as prolonged failure to address the panic-buying culture will no doubt end up with a tragic outcome.
Juliet Chowdhry added:
"Charities helping vulnerable groups such as the +70's, chronically ill and homeless should be given a priority hour for shopping.
"Several failed shopping attempts have already almost derailed our help in the community.
"Our volunteers will not continue unless supermarkets find a solution and we have been talking with Tesco and Sainsbury's head offices and hope to hear back from them soon with a positive result.
"This will pave the way for a more efficient response to COVID-19 and may well save lives."
BACA has not received any food gifts from Tesco or Fareshare for the last two weeks have only been able to provide small help to the deprived families and homeless we serve, thanks to the generosity of a closed school and private bakery store. The food crises coupled with their existing financial strain has left many of theses families at the lowest ebb of their morale. If you can help with a food or financial donation please donate by clicking (here) or make contact with us.