FOOD charities across the country are set to benefit from a £16m cash injection.

Today, the government confirmed that £16m of the £750m pot for frontline charities will be devoted to those providing meals to those in need.

At least 5,000 charities and community groups are set to benefit, with millions of meals provided by the cash over the next 12 weeks.

Dave Bagley, from Urban Outreach, welcomed the pledge as a good step in supporting those affected by the virus in the long-term.

He said: "It'll be quite useful, every area, every city must have some kind of food response and £16m is a fair chunk of money, it's a good start.

"I welcome it because we've moved on from the sprint and the emergency and we now must be really looking into the long term impact, things you will only see once the unlocking begins.

"When lockdown eases that will begin to show the true impact of the coronavirus other than illness, how many people will be left without a job, or made redundant?

"The government knows that the financial implications of coronavirus are going to be catastrophic for the country, and we need to continue with our community response to support everybody who has been impacted by the virus, not just those who became ill with it.

"Buying and giving food is just great but we need to build a solid foundation that goes beyond the emergency."

Refuges, homeless shelters and rehabilitation services are all eligible for the new programme, which will cover rural areas as well as cities.

Charities FareShare and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) will lead the delivery of the scheme.

Both have well-established networks for funding local groups and delivering food where it's needed most.

FareShare will be using some of the fund to buy from food manufactures to provide at least 5,000 charities with food supplies, whilst WRAP will use the extra cash to boost their work redistributing surplus food in the supply chain.

The government also plans to set up a covid-19 Food Charity Grant Scheme, for other charities that provide food to apply for funding.

More details on that fund will be released on Monday.

Mr Bagley added: "I have some concerns about how rigid the application form will be. All grants require an application, and there obviously has to be one because otherwise we won't know who wants the money, but usually they're independent of the local authority which can hurt the groups applying.

"You end up feeling like you need a bid writer to apply for those grants because you go through all the due diligence processes with the local authority, and then you make an application and have to go through the same processes again, and then again with each application.

"I'm not sure where the £750m is at the moment but we haven't seen it yet on the ground. Hopefully this is the start of it all rolling out for groups to apply to.

"Any funding that comes out around food and humanitarian response is very welcome. We need to prepare for the long haul that's before us because it will be a long haul."

The £16m being given from the government is in addition to any funds already pledged by supermarkets, wholesalers, and hospitality businesses.

Tesco is providing a £30m package of support for local communities, including a £25m food donation programme, whilst Sainsbury's has donated £3m to FareShare, and Coop donated £1.5m of food to the charity.

Asda has given £5m to community charites helping people through the crisis, and Morrison's has promised £10m of stock will be set aside in stores to be donated to those in need.