THE NEED of so many at home has created a massive demand for home deliveries, and many of the major players are struggling, particularly with the need to implement social distancing throughout their large-scale operations.
The government has organised the delivery of thousands of free food boxes to many of the ‘extremely vulnerable’ and continues to work with supermarkets to prioritise this group for online deliveries.
But scaling up enough deliveries for the wider group of ‘vulnerable’ people remains a challenge, although some, such as M&S and Morrisons, are offering food boxes that can be ordered separately to their main online service.
And many smaller enterprises have moved quickly to meet the demand.
Here in East Hampshire, home delivery companies are seeing unprecedented orders, while others are offering this service for the first time.
People are able to order direct from fruit and veg suppliers, butchers, bakers, catering companies, cafes and village shops, pet suppliers and garden centres.
Some of these are operating across Hampshire, but others are village businesses delivering in their local communities.
There is also a wider choice of prepared meals, with local pubs and catering companies providing fresh meals that can be re-heated at home or frozen for later.
People can get supplies they may struggle to get elsewhere – and they are supporting local businesses hit by the lockdown.
In some ways, it can become a virtual high street: independent shops selling online and delivering to people’s homes.
For the vulnerable facing extended isolation, it might be a way to shop local from businesses they would normally visit; just being able to order by phone directly from a favourite shop could be welcome for many.
The support of local voluntary groups remains important – collecting food orders or prescriptions for people – and some working with foodbanks so those without get supplied.
And, of course, it all comes at a cost, with businesses facing uncertainty and adapting to a new normal, and people not able to work or socialise as before.
But I hope support for these local enterprises continues far beyond the time when restrictions are eased.
I think this crisis is enabling us to rediscover our localness, partly through the amazing support of community groups and volunteers but also through the ingenuity of small businesses that are the backbone of our local and national economy.