Britain's busiest foodbank is proud of the way Newcastle is rallying around it during the coronavirus crisis as donations have flooded in since March.

At one point in April 2020, Newcastle's West End Foodbank was distributing 28 tonnes of canned and dried goods a week. That is around double the amount the foodbank normally gives out, trustee and volunteer Peter Rogerson told ChronicleLive.

The weight does not include the fresh food which is added to parcels.

At the moment, around 20 tonnes of food is being sent out every week by the foodbank, to feed roughly 1,100 people. As Covid-19 impacts on jobs, cuts shifts for zero-hour contract workers and forces people onto a six-week wait for Universal Credit, it is likely the number of those in need will rise again.

On Thursday, the queue of people waiting at Venerable Bede Church in West Road for emergency parcels curved out the door and almost onto the road, shortly after the centre opened. Volunteers inside said that is not unusual.

Peter explained that the pandemic led to new groups of people getting referred to the foodbank.

He said: "We're getting new groups of clients, the newly unemployed, those who were furloughed but have come off, and in this area there are a lot of people on zero-hour contracts. That population probably got by for two weeks or so, but then the money runs out."

The West End Foodbank now runs across the city, with centres in Benwell, West Road and Lemington in the west and partnership with community groups in Byker and Walker in the east of Newcastle along with a new foodbank in Kenton in the north of the city.

On Thursday one of the new volunteers from the Kenton centre was on shift in West Road to get to grips with how the operation works.

Having locations across Newcastle means the foodbank can support the wider city, which reflects the support it gets from the entire Newcastle community, while it also means people who were travelling to the West End from other parts of the city to get food do not have to fork out for bus fares.

Inside Newcastle West End foodbank
Inside Newcastle West End foodbank

Among the West End Foodbank's biggest contributors is the NUFC Fans' Foodbank, which collected outside St James' Park on match days before the pandemic, but recently arranged for supporters to donate £15 to the West End Foodbank instead of paying the same amount to watch Newcastle play Manchester United on Pay Per View TV. More than £20,000 was raised by the initiative, which was widely replicated by football fans across the country.

The foodbank had worries it would run out of food during the lockdown, but individual donations, fundraising and hefty support from Tesco and Morrisons helped maintain stock levels, while school harvest festivals and allotment holders have also added to stock levels in recent weeks.

Peter said: "The city has been brilliant in supporting us, the football fans and supporters' trust have been brilliant, people all over the city have given cash.

"There are lots of shops across the city collecting for us. But as people stopped shopping so often [due to lockdown] donations fell [from shop collections], but cash donations and supermarkets kept us going.

"We had a big worry that we would run out, but that's not been the case because of supermarket support and people giving us cash.

Chief Executive John McCorry emphasised the importance of expanding West End Foodbank around Newcastle, so it serves communities throughout the city and not just its original Benwell and West Road area.

He said: "We want to be in a position to support all sections of the community, right across the city, that need it. We are part of the fabric of the city. It's important for us to have a presence that reflects the united city approach.

"We want to make sure that there is no part of the city where vulnerable people were not being resourced, because people travelled here from across the city."