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The purpose of a foodbank is to feed those who are struggling to put food on the table, or those that are simply going without; A Foodbank can be a lifeline for those living in crisis. On this page you will find information on what foodbanks are, how to use them and how to donate to them.


About Foodbanks

Around 13 million people in the UK alone are living below the poverty line, and out of these an estimated 3 million are children.

Every year increasing numbers are turning to foodbanks for emergency food. Unemployment, redundancy, changes to benefits, illness, domestic violence, debt, and the constant rise in fuel and food prices are just some of the many reasons why people are going hungry and having to turn to foodbanks.

The Trussell Trust suggest that in 2013-2014 foodbanks fed 913,138 people across the UK, and of these helped 330,205 were children.

The use of a foodbank in times of need does a lot more than just feed someone; it can help prevent housing loss, mental health problems, crime and family breakdowns. It may seem like just a box of food but it really can be a lifeline.

Many foodbanks in the UK are operated by The Trussell Trust, who usually work alongside and in partnership with local churches, although there are others that are run and operated by local church groups independently.  Whether independent or alongside The Trussell Trust all foodbanks work towards the same aim: to provide short term assistance to anyone who is struggling to feed themselves and their family.

Most foodbanks provide a minimum of three days emergency food to those in crisis. Many foodbanks also offer goods and services beyond food, including toiletries, nappies, sanitary protection, pet food, bedding, clothing, camping gas stoves and even furniture. 

They can also provide support, a listening ear and signposts to other helpful services.

In order to receive these emergency supplies a food voucher must be exchanged. These are attained from a frontline care professional such as a doctor or social worker who will identify people in crisis and issue a voucher.

How Do Foodbanks Work

Food is donated:

Food is donated by churches, schools, businesses and individuals; all food is in-date and non-perishable.

Large donations are sometimes received from events such as a Harvest Festival or a schools/businesses collection as part of a charity event.

Many food donations come from supermarket collections; at many supermarkets there is a large basket at the front of the store with a ‘foodbank shopping list’ attached asking for specific items that the local foodbank is in need of, individual shoppers can then choose to buy an item or two from this list and pop the items in the basket at the front of the store when they leave. Please check for a supermarket collection at your local supermarket and do what you can for those in crisis in your local community.

Food is sorted and stored:

Once donations are received at the foodbank volunteer’s check through the food to ensure that it is all in date and then sort the food into boxes ready to be handed out to those in need.

Frontline care professionals identify people in need:

To be eligible for one of these emergency food boxes a person must be identified as being in crisis by a frontline care professional, this could be a doctor, social worker, health visitor, the police or the citizens advice bureau, these professionals are best placed to assess a persons need and to ensure it is genuine.

When a care professional identifies someone as being in crisis they can then issue them with a foodbank voucher.

Clients receive food:

Once a person receives a voucher they can take it to a foodbank to be redeemed for a food box filled with three days’ worth of emergency food. Foodbank volunteers will usually talk to users over a free hot drink and can signpost them to external organisations that may help solve their longer term problems.

Certain foodbanks run a delivery service; delivering emergency food boxes to foodbank clients that live in rural areas and cannot afford to get transport to a foodbank but would otherwise go hungry.

How to Donate to a Foodbank

Donation boxes and baskets can be found in many location including supermarkets, churches, schools and maybe you have one at your workplace (if not why not think about setting one up?), or you can donate directly  to your local foodbank. Why not run a charity event in your workplace, school or community with all the proceeds being spent on food donations at your local foodbank?

Donations of food will always be welcome but here are a few things to think about when donating:

  • Remember all foods should be non-perishable
  • Food should always be within its best before date
  • Try to check your local foodbank’s weekly shopping list so you are donating food items that are most in need
  • You can check out the Trussell Trust shopping list here (link) to see the items that are taken by foodbanks, taking these items allows the food boxes given out to contain food that is nutritionally balanced
  • Tins and packaging should not be damaged

Starting your own:

If you can’t find a foodbank near your local community and think there should be one then how about starting one up? The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network can help you start it up, for more information visit the Trussel Trust website here.

Foodbanks in Cornwall Report

Foodbanks are a valuable and often essential resource for people in times of crisis, but they could also be an opportunity to reach out to this vulnerable group and support them to maximise their capabilities, ensure a healthy standard of living, and help to prevent ill-health.

It was recognised at the Food and Cornwall Conference that the foodbank network was very strong in Cornwall, discussions on how this service could be taken forward in the future suggested that stronger partnership working was needed with other agencies.

The reports aims were to examine emergency food provision across Cornwall, through visits to foodbanks and talking to foodbank staff and volunteers. It identifies examples of good practice in signposting/referral to other agencies and recognises opportunities for Food and Cornwall to support the foodbank network, in line with the recent recommendations by the All-Party Parliamentary Groups report on Hunger and Food Poverty.

To read the full report click here