EMERGENCY food parcels have arrived in Devon and have begun to be distributed to the county’s most vulnerable residents.

The parcels will be delivered to those who have been told by the Government to ‘shield’ from coronavirus (COVID-19) for at least 12 weeks.

These are people who have been identified as being at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions and should have received a letter from the NHS with instructions on how they can best protect themselves.

South West Farmer:

Emergency food parcels. Picture: Daniel Clark

Volunteer staff redeployed from other council services have started to pack up the emergency food parcels at an undisclosed distribution hub on the outskirts of Exeter where the food, which was organised by Government and dispatched from a local wholesaler, arrived earlier today.

The parcels, which are free and contain seven days-worth of mostly non-perishable food for one person, will then be shipped out to district areas using Devon Highways vehicles driven by Civil Enforcement Officers from the County Council’s parking team.

The emergency food parcels contain things like bread, milk, apples, tea bags, ready meals, egg noodles, biscuits, porridge, custard, baked beans, squash, sugar.

They are standard packages, which all contain the same food, but call handlers, who have been phoning these people over the weekend to find out what their needs are, have been asking if they have specific dietary requirements or allergies, so they can warn people the parcels may contain food they cannot eat.

The call handlers are also finding out how best to support them, particularly with anything they need immediately such as vital food and medical supplies or additional care.

South West Farmer:

Some of the volunteers putting together the emergency food parcels. Picture: Daniel Clark

Phil Norrey, Devon County Council’s chief executive, said: “Our absolute focus at the moment is to rapidly deliver vital support to our residents with the highest medical needs that put them at the greatest risk.

“The rigorous ‘shielding’ measures include minimising interaction by staying at home at all times and avoiding any face-to-face contact to prevent being exposed to the virus.

“But this means that thousands of our residents who are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions could be left without vital food, medicine and care supplies, particularly if they live alone and don’t have family, friends or social care services to help them.

“We’re working with our district and city council colleagues to make sure these extremely vulnerable members of our communities continue to get the food, medicines and additional care they need as quickly as possible.

“I urge everyone, especially those in this highly vulnerable group, to follow the Government’s rules on staying at home and away from others, and we will continue to work around the clock to make sure the most vulnerable people are cared for and critical services continue to reach our communities.”

South West Farmer:

Matt Evans, chief executive of Active Devon. Picture: Daniel Clark

Matt Evans, chief executive of Active Devon, who is co-ordinating the response, added: “We are collating emergency food packs for Devon’s most vulnerable and self-isolating people. Over the course of the weekend we have been phoning up people who have been identified as needing extra support to see who needs a food parcel and the work we are doing is to pack a seven day food parcel that will go out to the district council colleagues.

“We have seen a really positive response to the message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Some of these people took the advice on board early and have found it harder to get access to their usual arrangements for food, so this is a vital stop gap until the national government program kicks in.”

About 900,000 people were identified and contacted by NHS England and asked to shield themselves during the coronavirus outbreak. GPs and hospitals were expected to add about 600,000 more to the list.

These vulnerable groups include organ transplant recipients, some cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems.

District and city councils will be locally managing the delivery of support within their communities to ensure the food parcels are delivered to residents as quickly and efficiently as possible.

People can also register themselves on the Government website if they have a medical condition that makes them extremely vulnerable to coronavirus, or register on someone’s behalf.

Devon County Council immediately set up the call system on Saturday and contacted around 400 people over the weekend and calls are continuing today.

So far, approximately 60 of those contacted have said they need one of the emergency food parcels because they don’t have enough food to last the week and have no network of support, but as information about extremely vulnerable people in Devon continues to arrive from Government, these numbers will increase quite quickly.

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