Coronavirus: Knottingley food bank closes after raid

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The food bank had discussed extra security measures with police the day before the break-in

Thieves have taken advantage of the coronavirus crisis and targeted a food bank to sell stolen goods in pubs, its manager has said.

Donations, including sanitary products and toilet rolls, were taken from the site in Knottingley, West Yorkshire.

Stockpiling restrictions mean the Trussel Trust food bank cannot replace the items and will close.

The town's MP, Yvette Cooper, described the crime as "shameful".

She called for supermarkets to change their rules to allow food banks to buy in bulk.

'Forced our hand'

The food bank, on Tythe Barn Road, had received a large donation of goods before one of its storage containers was raided at about 18:00 GMT on Wednesday.

Four men were seen fleeing the scene.

Project manager Janet Burns said: “I’m absolutely positive it’s coronavirus-related. They’re stealing stuff because they know they can sell it at pubs and clubs.”

She said there had been a long queue outside the food bank, including people with school meal vouchers which they fear will be unuseable when closures come into force from Friday.

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Yvette Cooper said the raid had taken place at a time "when we should be pulling together and helping each other"

Ms Burns added: “All our food is donated by the general public so it’s just taking the kindness of people and throwing it back in their faces.

“People who came in today might not have got as much as they might have done otherwise. These are people that are desperate for some help."

Before the break-in, the food bank had decided to move to a reduced service from next week, dealing with emergency cases only because many of its volunteers are older and classed as being at higher risk of catching the virus.

However, Ms Burns said losing so many donated goods had “forced our hand” and it will now close.

Ms Cooper called on the public to come forward with donations to help the food bank continue to provide for those in need.

She said: “If someone has done this in order to make profit from other people’s desperation that is a shocking and shameful crime.”

Insp Phillippa Child, from West Yorkshire Police, said: "Foodbanks are there to help the most needy in society and this is a disgusting crime."

She said the force was looking at CCTV and asked anyone with information to get in touch.