Families in parts of rural England say they became completely dependent on volunteers who deliver food to them during the coronavirus crisis.
About 1.5 million households are at least a half-hour round trip from a grocery store on foot or by public transportation, according to government data.
In urban areas, the average is less than 15 minutes, excluding time spent in the store.
The Countryside Alliance said that local food volunteers were “filling the gaps” in rural communities.
Under lockout restrictions, shopping for food is one of only four reasons people are allowed to leave their homes.
In rural England, many households have to travel long distances to do their shopping, which becomes more difficult if a family has to be isolated due to Covid-19.
“Without these volunteer deliveries, my children would starve to death,” said Catherine Boyes, a mother of six who lives on a farm on the edge of North York Moors National Park.
She said she had struggled to get regular delivery from a supermarket due to growing demand and that she depends on the Pickering Help Network to deliver supplies.
“My oldest son has cystic fibrosis, so we can’t go to the shops and risk coming into contact with this hideous disease,” she said.
“This crisis has really shown how isolated we are. “
Families across the country are struggling to receive regular home deliveries to large supermarkets.
Tesco said it would not be able to respond to all requests for home deliveries.
Sainsbury’s said it would prioritize vulnerable people for delivery slots, while Asda said if people could shop safely in stores, they should do so to free up deliveries for those who do. need.
Pauline Hewitt is one of over 100 volunteers who help deliver food parcels from the rural town of Pickering in North Yorkshire.
“There is a real sense of fear and panic in some people about how they will shop in an industry like this,” said Ms. Hewitt, who also works in the healthcare industry.
“As volunteers, we have had to spend a lot of time reassuring people that no matter what, we will be able to provide them with a weekly supply of food.
“Even in normal times, there are a lot of people in North Yorkshire who can’t just jump down the road for a loaf or a pint of milk. “
In England, figures produced by the Department of Transport show a wide variation in travel times for people going to a local grocery store.
In parts of central London, it takes an average of eight minutes to make a round trip from home to a grocery store on foot or by public transport, excluding time in the store.
At Eden in Cumbria, a similar journey would take on average more than half an hour each way, according to the data.
Longest average journey time to a grocery store
Minutes to reach a store on foot or by public transport
Across England, the average length of a one-way car trip to a grocery store in a major city is seven minutes.
A similar trip from a small rural village would take an average of 11 minutes and 36 seconds.
Average journey time to a local food store
One-way minutes in England (estimate)
Sarah Lee of the Countryside Alliance said that rural businesses and volunteer groups provide a lifeline to many of the most isolated people in the country.
“I think that many vulnerable rural residents are not automatically placed on a priority list of the government or the board for online food deliveries in supermarkets,” she said.
“What we do see, however, is tremendous resilience on the part of rural communities and local stores and volunteers, who fill gaps when services are struggling to reach people.”
Councils across England help coordinate the efforts of volunteer groups to ensure essential supplies reach the poor
Carl Les, head of the North Yorkshire County Council, said, “We are doing everything we can to keep people out of the safety net.”
“During the weekly conference calls we have with government ministers, we are told to spend what we need to get through this emergency and that the government will take the bill. “
Councils in England are receiving £ 1.6 billion in emergency funding for coronaviruses.
Announcing the additional funds in March, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said, “The work of local authorities to provide social care and other vital public services has never been more important than it is. today and will be in the days and weeks to come. “