Food banks: what items do they accept and need the most?

Tinned food and pasta aren’t the only items that food banks need – there are many more essentials that help families and people in need across the UK. And now the need is greater than ever

Food in food bank crate

Food banks are run by volunteers, churches and charities and provide free essentials to help people who are struggling and in need of support for everyday living. There are now over 2000 food banks across the UK, with 1200 run by the Trussell Trust and over 850 represented by the Independent Food Aid Network, IFAN.

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Covid-19 update – Food banks face record demand

Corona virus has caused a huge surge in food bank visits and the need for emergency food parcels. The Trussell Trust has revealed that there was an 89% increase in demand in April 2020 compared to April 2019 – and a doubling in families coming to food banks. IFAN reported an even greater rise – with 175% increase compared to this time last year.

Food banks rely on donations from people and businesses, and there are a number of different items that enable the food banks to create their emergency provision parcels.

What do food banks need for their food parcels?

The food parcels provide a minimum of 3 days of non-perishable tinned and dried foods. The parcels have been developed in conjunction with nutritionists to ensure that there’s the right balance of food to provide at least 3 days of healthy balanced meals.

Volunteer working in food bank
Pic: Getty Images

Food required for a typical food parcel includes:

  • Pasta/Rice/Noodles
  • Tinned tomatoes/pasta sauce
  • Cereal
  • Lentils, beans and pulses
  • Tinned meat/fish
  • Vegetarian alternatives
  • Tinned vegetables
  • Tinned spaghetti
  • Soup – tins/packet
  • Tea/coffee
  • Long-life/UHT milk
  • Long-life fruit juice
  • Custard/Rice pudding
  • Biscuits

Some food banks have the capabilities to offer fresh food too – you’ll need to check with your local food bank to see if they take perishable food.

But it’s not just food – food banks need non-food items too

Baby items, toiletries and personal hygiene products are also much needed.

Non-food items needed by food banks include:

  • Baby care – Nappies, baby wipes and baby food
  • Toiletries – deodorant, razors, loo roll, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shower gel, shaving gel, hand wipes
  • Period products – sanitary pads and tampons
  • Household items – washing-up liquid, laundry detergent/powder, fabric softener

How do I donate food or toiletries – where’s my nearest food bank collection point?

Drop off point sign for food banks
Pic: Getty Images

You can take in-date food and non-food items to a local food bank, plus there are collection points at supermarkets, churches and some businesses offer collections too.

To find your local food bank, both the Trussell Trust and IFAN have maps to help you locate which ones are near you

Where to find 1200 Trussell Trust food banks

Where to find 850+ food banks represented by IFAN

How do you use a food bank?

To receive a 3-day parcel from a Trussell Trust food bank and most independent food banks, you’ll need a food voucher, for which you’ll need a referral.

You may be able to get a referral and voucher from a number of different agencies and organisations, including housing associations, your GP or mental health teams, advice charities including Citizen’s Advice and children’s centres, who will assess your need. The Trussell Trust also advise that you can call or email your local Trussell Trust food bank, who will let you know which referral agencies they work with in your area.

Once you have your voucher, you can go to your local food bank, where you will be welcomed by trained volunteers. They’ll sit down with you and discuss your needs, provide a food parcel and also potentially help you find support.

How many people use food banks?

Inside a food bank
Pic: Getty Images

Between April 2018 and March 2019, 1.6 million 3-day food parcels were distributed by the Trussell Trust. This is just part of the picture as it doesn’t include the independent food banks represented by IFAN. Covid-19 has caused a huge increase in demand, and the numbers are likely to be at least double by the end of 2020.

According to a report by The Trussell Trust published in November 2019, a survey of over 1000 people using a food bank revealed that:https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/

  • 94% were “facing real destitution”, unable to buy essentials to stay warm, dry, clean and fed
  • More than 75% were in arrears, most commonly rent, and 40% were repaying debts
  • 22% were single parents
  • Over two-thirds had experienced a problem with the benefits system in the year before they used a food bank – including long waits and benefit award reductions

And don’t forget about beauty banks

Beauty Banks is a non-profit organisation that collects and distributes personal care and beauty items to people who need them. Set up by beauty writer Sali Hughes and beauty PR Jo Jones, Beauty Banks works with charity partners who are registered foodbanks and shelters to distribute these essential personal items to those who will benefit most.

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You can donate beauty and personal care items through Droppoint or Easho wishlist, a retail partner of Beauty Banks.

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