With the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, food banks are being relied upon more than ever before. If you're wondering how to help, here's everything you need to know about food bank donations.
Food banks work with support from the public, who donate non-perishable food at a range of places such as schools, churches, and local businesses, as well as supermarket collection points. Then volunteers sort the produce into emergency food parcels to give to people in need. A large majority of food banks also provide extra services alongside the emergency food parcels, such as toiletries, sanitary products, and baby basics (although for the latter a baby bank (opens in new tab) is a better bet).
According to recent stats published by The Trussel Trust (opens in new tab), 95% of people referred to food banks in early 2020 were unable to afford to eat or stay warm and dry. As well as 18% of households referred to food banks were single parents - more than twice the rate in the general population. Trussel Trust added; "We know that extremely low income is a key factor driving people to food banks." Therefore donating to a food bank is needed now more than ever.
There are 2,000 food banks across the UK, with the majority of them run by The Trussell Trust and the others run by the Independent Food Aid Network. If you're wondering, where can I find food banks near me (opens in new tab)? The easiest way to find the food bank most local to you is through the Trussell Trust website, where you can search for your postcode (opens in new tab) and it will give you the addresses of the food banks in your local area.
How to donate to a food bank
If you’re looking to make a difference in your local community and donate to a food bank, there are many ways you can do it. On their website, The Trussell Trust says, “We’re not sure about the impact of the pandemic will be on food stock levels in the coming months, so we really encourage you to support your local food bank if you’re able to.”
They encourage people to check what items are most needed on that day and donate those if possible.
Currently, you are still able to donate directly to your local food bank using the search feature to find the closest one to you, or through your local supermarket collection points. There should be a basket in your local supermarket where you can donate food to.
If you want to donate money instead, you can do this directly via The Trussell Trust. (opens in new tab)
How to volunteer for a food bank
With over 30% of food bank project managers over 65 years old and therefore classed as “at-risk”, food banks are struggling with a lack of personnel to help deliver parcels due to Covid restrictions. Speaking to the Guardian, Emma Revie said, “We are definitely in need of additional volunteers. One of our biggest threats is people becoming unwell and unable to volunteer.”
Your local council website is likely to have a page on volunteering in your area, specifying any food banks local to you and if there are roles and jobs available. You can also search using The Trussell Trust website (opens in new tab).
What to donate to a food bank
While food banks always provide a minimum of three days' worth of nutritionally balanced, non-perishable tinned and dried foods, what you should donate to a food bank differs depending on where you are - and what food bank you're donating to.
Typically food banks are looking for donations of food products from supermarkets, such as:
- Canned tomatoes/ pasta sauce
- Lentils, beans and pulses
- Canned meat
- Canned vegetables
- Tinned fruit
- UHT milk
- Fruit juice
Lots of food banks will also offer essential non-food items (opens in new tab), such as toiletries and hygiene products.
However, because the supplies to food banks differ between areas, it’s important to check with your local food bank what kind of supplies they’re most in need of at the moment. An easy way to do this is to use the search box at the bottom of this page (opens in new tab), underneath “Items to donate”. It will tell you the products and food items that your local food bank is in need of at the moment.
If you are in the position to donate to a local food bank, now is the time to do so, with more people needing their services every day.
What items do food banks need most?
Food banks mostly need long-life products that have extended use-by dates or non-perishables such as canned vegetables and fish, biscuits, and sugar for example.
Canned foods are often the first thing people think to donate. This is because when considering 'how long does canned food last (opens in new tab)?', the answer is it has a long shelf life and can even be eaten beyond its expiration date if the can isn't damaged in any way.
However, other store cupboard essentials like stock cubes, condiments and spices, and jarred sauces are also welcome.
Can I donate toiletries to food bank?
You can donate toiletries to most food banks but it's worth checking on the local food bank website beforehand. The Trussell Trust recommends the following:
- Toilet paper
- Shower gel
- Shaving gel
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
You can also donate household items, feminine hygiene products, and baby supplies too:
- Household items – laundry liquid detergent, laundry powder, washing up liquid
- Feminine products – sanitary towels and tampons
- Baby supplies – nappies, baby wipes, and baby food
- Face masks and hand sanitiser
What do food banks need at Christmas?
Festive treats are appreciated as food donations at food banks during the Christmas holidays particularly Christmas pudding, as it often comes with a long-life use by date. The Trussell Trust recommends non-alcoholic puddings.
Chocolate coins and Christmas dinner non-perishables such as tinned pies, vegetables, condiments, and gravy are all appreciated this time of year. Festive treats for those who can't afford them at this time of year are welcome.
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Jessica Dady is Senior Content Editor at Goodto.com and has over 10 years of experience as a digital journalist, specialising in all things food, recipes, and SEO. From the best food hampers to cookbooks, from the best cake stands to baking sets, Jessica has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to must-have food products. A passionate baker, she spends much of her time creating celebration cakes for friends and family - particularly for her two lucky children.
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