John Lewis Partnership has launched a £1m community support fund to be distributed across the country “at this time of national crisis”.

The retailer said the cash will be distributed through its Waitrose grocery stores for schemes such as local delivery services to support the self-isolating, the vulnerable, older people and those looking after them, as well as for delivering boxes of staples to local care homes. It will donate products for customers to share with vulnerable neighbours. 

The initiative is one of a range of measures the retailer is taking in response to the crisis.

From today, Waitrose will limit purchases of all grocery items to three per customer and a maximum of two packets of toilet paper.

From Friday, Waitrose will – like retailers including Iceland and Sainsbury’s – introduce a dedicated priority shopping hour for the older and vulnerable people.

The grocer will also shut all of its cafes and rotisseries, and suspend making coffees. 

John Lewis Partnership said: “This will free up extra hours for partners to keep shelves stocked with food and essential items. In some cases, branches will be closing early to give partners time to restock the shelves.

The partnership said it is “also exploring offering online classes and advice from expert partners to customers who are having to self-isolate”, such as craft classes and advice for expectant parents. 

The business is establishing a support fund to help staff facing additional costs as a result of the pandemic, such as childcare costs.

Chair Dame Sharon White said: “At this time of national crisis, the John Lewis Partnership is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring we support customers and in particular the elderly and most vulnerable. Our commitment to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities we operate in has always been at the heart of our business.

“Partners have been outstanding, supporting each other and responding to the huge surge in demand at Waitrose. More than 2,100 John Lewis partners are helping in Waitrose shops this month and supporting deliveries. I am truly grateful to everyone.”