Foodbanks provide emergency food and essential support to households in crisis.


What are Food Banks and How Do They Work?

July 22nd, 2022

Thousands of families in the UK are facing financial hardship right now. The cost-of-living crisis is placing pressure on many households, with food prices, fuel prices and energy bills soaring.

We know that raising a child in the UK can be costly. That’s why we pay all our foster carers a generous allowance that far exceeds national minimum rates.

However, times are undeniably tough. It’s important to be aware of and understand what kind of support is available to you should you need it. It’s also worth knowing what you can do to support your local foodbank, and how your donation will help a family in need.

Keep reading to find out how food banks work and what you can do to support them.

Picture: A food bank preparing a parcel.

What is a Food Bank?

It’s estimated there are over 2,500 UK foodbanks operating throughout the nation. In 2021-2022, approximately 2.17 million people used a foodbank in the UK.

Often organised by local communities or non-profit, charitable organisations like the Trussell Trust,  foodbanks use UK emergency food and essential support to households in crisis.

The food is completely free and is often accompanied by a range of additional support so that people don’t need to rely on the food bank again. This support may vary area to area, depending on the needs and requirements of each local community.

Picture: a food parcel.

What Kind of Food is Stored There?

A simple box of food can make a big difference to those in need.

Foodbanks store non-perishable, in-date food that is often tinned or dried. Some examples might include:

  • Cereal
  • Tinned meat
  • Tinned vegetables
  • Soup
  • Beans, pulses and lentils
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Tinned Tomatoes
  • Tea/Coffee
  • Biscuits
  • Fruit Juice

These food items are often packaged into a food parcel. Food parcels aim to be as nutritious as possible and feed a household for three days on average.

Food banks also try to provide non-food items like toiletries or personal hygiene products where they can. Again, this varies area by area and depends on the types of donations they receive.

Picture: Volunteers at a food bank.

How Does a Food Bank Work UK?

Food banks are there for anyone in the community who needs them, and there are a variety of reasons why an individual may need to use a food bank.

Often, people who need to use a food bank are unemployed or unable to work; this can happen for a variety of reasons. They may have a physical or mental disability or may have recently been made redundant or had their working hours reduced. They may be waiting to receive benefits payments, or received an unexpected bill or cost that has depleted their funds.

To use a food bank, individuals usually need to get a referral first.  You can get a referral from various places, but we recommend visiting your nearest Citizens Advice for one.

After you tell your local Citizens Advice that you need a foodbank, they’ll likely make an appointment with you to discuss your situation and ask some questions about your income, living situation and the type of support you might need. You can find out more about getting a food bank referral from Citizens Advice here.

Once approved, you can visit your local food bank to collect your parcel. Food banks are meant to be a short-term solution rather than a long-term solution, so you’ll likely only get three vouchers to use in any one crisis.

Picture: children volunteering at a food bank.

How Do I Donate to a Food Bank?

Donating to a food bank can go a long way in supporting the members of your local community. Food banks UK are an essential part of crisis intervention, and your donation will help in supporting individuals in their time of need.

There are a few ways to donate to food banks. You can donate food items directly to your local food bank or drop off your food donation at a local supermarket collection point.

If you want to donate money to a food bank, you can do this directly via the Trussell Trust on their website.

Alternatively, if you have some spare time and want to really make a difference, some food banks rely on volunteers to operate. You should get in contact with your local food bank to enquire about how you can work at food banks, if this is something you are interested in.

You can also check out our other suggestions on how to give back to your community here.

If you’d like to make a difference to the life of a vulnerable young child, get in touch with us to find out more about fostering today.


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