After weeks of ample supplies through the generosity of Australians during the bushfire crisis, Foodbank NSW and ACT says the situation is becoming dire, with COVID-19 fears causing a steep drop in supplies and helping hands.
Foodbank NSW and ACT chief executive Gerry Andersen says this is the biggest challenge the food relief organisation has ever faced, with 80 per cent of its volunteer workforce lost over recent weeks.
The majority of these volunteers are corporate groups who have now pulled the pin, resulting in Foodbank having to employ more staff, causing financial strain.
Mr Andersen also told AAP on Sunday panic buying in the supermarkets has affected the amount of items, including toilet paper, Foodbank is able to provide to charity services.
"Donations have become a little more restricted. The amount of fruit and veg that we're getting is half what it was four weeks ago," he said.
"We want to be fair to all the charities that we're looking after because these are pretty tough times."
Mr Andersen said more than 1000 pallets of donated goods from the bushfire campaign have been delivered to bushfire and drought-affected communities across NSW and ACT, with plentiful supplies quickly running thin.
"We've got basically none of that left. That's all been distributed," he said.
The organisation is also in a difficult position when it comes to public donations at the moment due to concerns about virus transmission, Mr Andersen said.
People have been employed to sanitise products and strict hygiene standards are in place to protect donations and the workforce.
He says the work of Foodbank is more vital than ever, as vulnerable communities are likely to feel the sting of the pandemic.
He urged the NSW government "to declare Foodbank an essential service" in light of Coles supermarkets' announcement that it would donate $1 million in food, to ensure the organisation could continue helping the vulnerable.
"We need the government to acknowledge that (Coles funding) so we can stay open and continue to supply donations, so it's vital that we become declared one of those essential services," Mr Andersen said.
"Australians have got a wonderful spirit and we will survive this because optimism always wins over pessimism but we need to just all group together."
Australian Associated Press