A FORMER Staples store has been transformed into a foodbank hub during the coronavirus crisis.

Urban Outreach, working in partnership with the council and Bolton Community and Voluntary Services, is undertaking the “huge task” of putting together food parcels ready to transport to communities across the town.

Around a couple of hundred volunteers are involved in the food distribution effort with up to 40 people helping out at the empty shop in Trinity Retail Park at any one time, according to the charity’s founder Dave Bagley.

But he said the 17,000 square-metre store gives volunteers plenty of space to adhere to social distancing measures.

He said: “It’s a big space so we just spread the people out. People manage their own space as well. It’s not too much of a challenge – it can be a bit of a laugh.”

Urban Outreach needs a large amount of particular types of food to feed individuals and families across the borough.

Excess items such as tinned foods, toiletries, toilet rolls, can be dropped off and donated at the town centre spot.

Mr Bagley encouraged those donating food at Urban Outreach’s office in Salop Street said to drop it off at the food hub instead.

He said: “We need tinned tomatoes, tomato sauces – any cooking sauces. Pasta’s hard to come by. We’ll take anything at the moment. It will all get used and they will go out to communities and the people who need them.

“Drop it off at the former Staples store – it’s easier from there.

“They come into the front of the building and drop it off and we move it from there.

“You can come out especially for that or do a drive by. If you’re dropping food off it’s perfectly fine to leave your house.”

The Christian charity has previously used the empty retail unit, last occupied by Office Outlet, to prepare packed lunches for children who receive free school meals during the summer holidays.

He said: “We were looking for some where for the lunches and we knew the guys who owned Trinity Retail Park. We contacted them and they said go and have a look at it. We went down to go and have a look, and we wanted it, and they made it possible for us.

“It’s been running for about a year. We used it for the lunches last year. So it’s all up and running from there.

“When it was all done, we were going to wrap it up for now until this unusual time that we are in at the moment. I contacted the guys who owned it and they said please carry on using it and use it for this.”

If anyone with time to spare is willing and able to volunteer at the food hub,  Urban Outreach would really appreciate any help and support.

It will be open every weekday between 10am and 4pm and will be observing safe practices outlined in the government guidelines.

If you want to get involved, please email samuel.bagley@urbanoutreach.co.uk.

Any excess food can be dropped off at the former Staples Store which is in Unit 4 Trinity Retail Park Springfield, Bradford Street, BL2 1HY.

People have been asked to not bulk purchase even if they intend to donate the goods.

For more information call the office on 01204 385848 or visit their website.