Supermarket chain Morrisons is to give away £10 million worth of goods to food banks across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chief executive David Potts said its bakery, egg, and fruit and vegetable departments will run for an extra hour every day to make, prepare and pack food required to restock the services.
It will also be sending deliveries of ambient food – such as canned goods and pasta – to local food banks via “community champions”.
The move comes after food banks across the UK were forced to close or reduce hours after the coronvirus crisis led to a decline in volunteers and a shortage in donations.
Meanwhile, Mr Potts also praised the response of the public to social distancing measures introduced at supermarkets and added that staff were doing all they could to stay safe and minimise the risk of exposure in-store.
Mr Potts said: “As a food maker and shopkeeper we are uniquely placed to help.
“We know food banks are finding life very difficult and running our manufacturing sites for an extra hour each day to help restock them is the right decision at this time.
“The core purpose of all 96,537 colleagues at Morrisons is to play our full part in feeding the nation.”
Mr Potts said the plan is for food to be distributed to food banks by July.
The retailer, which typically serves more than 12 million customers every week, said it also wanted to encourage customers to make donations by lifting purchase limits to four items and removing limits on some items altogether.
The supermarket has already revamped its in-store cafes as donation hubs.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Monday, Mr Potts said the store is providing the food so that local community champions can help restock the nation’s food banks.
“For many people who use the food banks that’s their only store – so it is a very important part of society and we will play our part so that nobody is left behind,” he added.
“The public have been brilliant”
Asked about the public response to in-store changes and abusive behaviour from customers, Mr Potts said: “To be honest the public have been brilliant and so have our own people and of course in these times of social distancing this is a real challenge.
“We call for patience from the public and, as we say, they have been top class.”
On safety measures in-store, he added: “Our staff – along with ourselves – follow the Public Health England advice. We listen quite carefully to the authorities and we provide the opportunity to be protected at the tills.
“We’ve closed down many counters, we’ve become much more of a self-service business; (we are) washing hands and taking all of the social distancing measures.”
Food banks and community charities
Other big chains have also donated large sums to food banks and community charities.
Last week, the Co-op said it would donate £1.5 million worth of food to the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, FareShare, to help boost stocks and support local communities struggling because of the coronavirus outbreak.