A LIFELINE for Sunraysia's most vulnerable came in the form of a dedicated community shopping hour at major supermarkets on Tuesday morning.
Hundreds of residents were queued up out the front of Mildura's Langtree Mall Woolworths from 5.15am before doors opened at 7am.
It was a similar scene at Mildura Central's Woolworths where masses of residents congregated in the dark until they were let into the store.
The week-long initiative was prompted by an "unprecedented demand" in supermarkets due to coronavirus COVID-19 fears, which has seen many elderly and vulnerable people in the community missing out.
Sunraysia Daily spoke with a number of people at Tuesday's opening.
Some were able to secure essentials including toilet paper and tissues, while others narrowly missed out.
Mildura's Sharon Carter waited in line to shop with her daughter Teresa Mudford and said she could not believe how many people were also taking advantage of the initiative.
Ms Carter said she had been having difficulty finding supermarkets with available stock for the last week.
"I didn't mind getting up a little bit earlier ... I got some meat and other things I wanted. Still no toilet paper though," she said.
"This could go on for six months ... what do you do?
"People really are panicking too much."
Toilet paper sold out within 15 minutes of the store's opening, but is expected to be restocked overnight before Wednesday's hour of shopping.
Mildura's Maureen Gillick was one of the few shoppers to walk away with a packet of toilet paper.
"By the time I got to the toilet rolls there was only two left," she said.
"I'm lucky ... but there are plenty of people out there who have none."
Mildura's Alicia Graham was shocked by the small amount of toilet paper that was available.
"When we got inside and there was only six packets of toilet paper," she said.
"It was still ridiculous ... there was still hardly anything on the shelves."
Another shopper said they were disappointed to find their desired items out of stock after waiting in line, but complimented the initiative as a "big help".
"We just ended up getting flour and rice and stocked up on some other items, but what do you even buy in a crisis though?" the resident said.
"I'm quite taken back at how many people are here though, it's almost easier at other times."
Supermarkets across Sunraysia are working to support customers as stock continues to be depleted.
Supermarket opening times:
As of Wednesday, Woolworths and Coles will be closing at 8pm so staff can clean and restock shelves.
Woolworths, Coles and Ritchies/Fishers are holding special community shopping hours all this week for seniors and those with a disability.
These shopping opportunities are from 7-8am across all Sunraysia Coles, Woolworths and Ritchies/Fishers supermarkets.
Stores will open to regular customers from 8am.
During the community shopping hour people are asked to bring their concession cards and identification to prove they fit into these categories.