Food banks in the UK are available to anyone in need of food assistance – regardless of your background, nationality or beliefs. You can visit a food bank without fear of discrimination. This includes the unemployed, people with a physical or mental disability, individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as people who are currently employed but are struggling to make ends meet.
Can Anyone Use a Food Bank?
To access food bank services, all you need is a referral from a recognised organisation, which you can easily get from Citizens Advice. This is also known as a food bank voucher.
How to Get a Food Bank Voucher
1. Call Citizens Advice
You can get a food bank voucher by calling Citizens Advice at 0800 144 8 444. Be sure to provide your name and phone number, and let them know you require a referral. They’ll likely make an appointment with you to discuss your situation further. Be prepared to answer questions about your income, living situation and the type of support you think you need.
Keep in mind that Citizens Advice offers a call-back service that gives priority to existing food bank users. Moreover, due to the ongoing cost of living crisis in the UK, the volume of calls is currently high, so it would be wise to call a few days in advance of your food bank visit.
2. Contact other referral agencies
You may also request a food voucher from any one of the following agencies, organisations or professionals you’re already involved with:
- Children’s centres
- General Practitioners
- Health visitors
- Housing support officers
- Local charities and churches
- Local schools
Once you have received a food voucher, you can exchange it for food supplies at your nearest food bank.
Where Is My Local Food Bank?
To find a food bank near you, just search for your town, city or postcode on the Trussell Trust’s website. Often organised by local communities or charitable organisations like the Trussell Trust, it’s estimated that over 2,500 food banks are currently operating throughout the United Kingdom.
What Do Food Banks Provide?
Food banks play a vital role in providing assistance to people in need. They offer various types of emergency support:
1. Non-perishable food
Food banks provide non-perishable, in-date food that is often tinned or dried. Some examples include:
- Beans, pulses and lentils
- Fruit Juice
- Tinned meat
- Tinned Tomatoes
- Tinned vegetables
2. Household essentials
Food banks may also provide non-food items like toiletries or personal hygiene products. This will vary from area to area, depending on the types of donations the food bank receives.
3. Additional support
Many food banks also offer a range of additional support so that people don’t have to rely on the food bank in the future. This support varies from area to area, depending on the needs and requirements of each local community. However, it may include debt counselling, mental health support, as well as crisis intervention resources.
How Often Can You Use a Food Bank?
When relying on food banks for support, you will usually be issued a maximum of four food bank vouchers. Each voucher can be exchanged for a food parcel that aims to be as nutritious as possible and should sustain you for at least three days.
Alternatives to Food Banks
While a simple box of food can make a huge difference to families in need, food banks are never intended to be a long-term solution. This is why you should also consider some other proven ways to escape a crisis.
1. Jobseeker’s allowance
For people who are actively seeking employment, you can check if you’re eligible for Jobseeker’s Allowance and apply on the government’s website.
2. Support for people with disabilities
The government have also put together a helpful guide with all the benefits and support available to people dealing with debilitating health conditions. This includes help to find or stay in work.
3. Fostering allowances
Increasingly, people are also turning to fostering as a long-term solution, as it provides a reliable source of income throughout the cost of living crisis. While every fostering agency will have a different fostering allowance, at Compass, our carers are paid up to £82,800 per year. See our fostering allowance calculator to find out how much you could earn.
Who Can Use a Food Bank: Summarised
With more and more people wondering how to survive the cost of living crisis, demand for food banks is soaring. Between 2021 and 2022 alone, 2.17 million people used a food bank in the UK. Thankfully, with a food bank voucher from a referring organisation, you can visit your local food bank and support your family with a healthy food parcel. Alternatively, as a long-term solution, you can also consider fostering.