The Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank has cancelled plans to provide free lunches for children in the area during the Easter school holiday next month.

The move, made in response to growing public health concerns around the spread of the coronavirus, is a significant blow to efforts to tackle child poverty in the area.

The scheme began during the 2019 summer holiday and continued at the autumn break in October, the Christmas and New Year fortnight, and the mid-term holiday in February.

The food bank's regular weekly drop-in sessions will continue - but with a warning that if government guidelines on public gatherings changes, these, too, may have to be streamlines.

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In a statement on their Facebook page, the food bank team said: "Unfortunately Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank are not able to offer holiday lunches in the upcoming Easter holidays due to coronavirus.

"We would however like to make you all aware of our weekly food bank drop-in sessions and would welcome you to pop in so that we can offer you and your family support.

"We hope to continue to operate these as usual however if guidance we receive changes we may need to streamline our service."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued new guidance on Monday this week advising against unnecessary social contact, with people being told not to visit pubs, clubs or restaurants.

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The drop-in sessions run at the Red Cross Hall at 116 East Princes Street, Helensburgh G84 7DQ on Mondays and Fridays from 10am-12 noon, and on Thursdays from 6-8pm.

There's also a drop-in session at the pavilion in Howie Park, Rosneath (G84 0RJ) on Wednesdays from 1-3 pm.

Elderly residents over the age of 70 are also being urged to stay at home as much as possible as the country prepares for the peak of the virus in the coming weeks and months.

Restaurants and local businesses are, as a result, predicting a dramatic downturn in income as more and more people are forced indoors.

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Mary McGinley, chair of the Helensburgh and Lomond Foodbank, told the Advertiser that this could lead to a nightmare scenario in the town.

She said: "The local community have always been very generous in donating to the food bank.

"However if more people have to stay at home we expect a reduction in donations and we may see an increase in food bank demand if schools close and as people have their working hours and wages reduced.

"We hope to be able to continue to support all those who find themselves with no food and no money to buy food, that is our key objective."

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Mary said stock levels are good for the time-being, however, she appealed for continued community support.

"We plan to continue to offer a drop-in food bank for as long as we can," she added, "subject to having healthy volunteers and enough food.

"We will continue to follow Scottish Government and NHS guidance and have posters at the entrance advising clients and volunteers on the standard precautions - hand washing and staying at home if you have a cough or fever being the most important advice.

"We have stopped serving tea and coffee and having people sitting down in the hall for a chat and advice.

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"We have set up the hall to provide a walkthrough food bank where clients can come in the front door, register and be given a pre-packed bag of food to take away.

"This will contain a three to four-day supply of basic non-perishable food items plus bakery and fruit. The clients will just pick this up and leave by the exit door.

"We will seek to maintain the recommended social distance between people at the food bank.

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"We have a healthy stock of food at the moment apart from long-life milk which we have been unable to purchase locally.

"The local community have been great supporters of the food bank and we hope that those who are able to donate food at our drop-off boxes in the Co-op or Waitrose will continue to do this.

"Long-life milk, pasta sauce and breakfast cereals are the items we need most just now."

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