VANCOUVER -- A B.C. charity that fills the "weekend hunger gap" for children living in poverty says panic-buying amid the global COVID-19 pandemic has been hampering its work.

Backpack Buddies is based in the Lower Mainland, but it was planning to begin operating in Port Hardy this week. The charity says those plans are now on hold because its suppliers are experiencing shortages caused by panic-buying.

"We're just slowly starting to feel the effects, but they could potentially be quite catastrophic for us," said Emily-anne King, the organization's cofounder. "We've been told we may not be able to get our food deliveries."

Backpack Buddies provides backpacks full of food to children for use on the weekends, when they can't take advantage of school-based meal programs.

The organization delivers 1,450 backpacks per week at 68 different schools in Metro Vancouver and Victoria.

King said as many one in two children in Port Hardy live with food insecurity, and they'll have to continue to do so now that Backpack Buddies has delayed its launch there.

"We just don't know if we can even manage to supply the kids that we've already put on our program locally before we go anywhere else," King said.

She said she understands the fear that leads people to rush to grocery stores and load up their carts, but thinks too many people are going overboard.

"I think that people need to just take what they need for themselves," King said. "People should be prepared if they do have to isolate, but you need two weeks' worth of food, you don't need six months' worth of food. I just really urge people to think about, realistically, what those quantities are for their family and their household and leave the rest for people who really need it."

Social media has been awash with pictures of empty shelves at grocery stores around B.C. since Thursday, when the province announced it was recommending against all non-essential international travel and banning gatherings of more than 250 people.

At their Saturday update on the province's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix asked the public to be "measured" in their purchasing. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Angela Jung