With winter fast approaching and the pandemic bringing with it employment uncertainty for millions of people, you’ve probably asked the question: how can I help my local food bank?

Now that help is needed more than ever: data from the Trussell Trust – the British charity responsible for coordinating food banks – revealed in 2020 that the number of emergency three-day food supplies being provided by their associated food banks has increased by 7,237%: from 25,899 in 2008 to 1,900,122 in 2019. As not all food banks in the country are associated with the Trussell Trust, the true extent of food poverty in Britain is likely far greater.

The number of people relying on food banks has been increasing dramatically over the last decade and shows no signs of slowing; approximately 14.3 million people (1/5th of the population) – the majority from households where at least one member is in work – are living in poverty. Many of these people are forced to rely on foodbanks. Recent data also shows that students are relying on foodbanks too.

Here is a guide to all you need to know about doing your bit to help your local food bank.

What should I give to a food bank?

Though you may not expect it, the best thing to give to most foodbanks is CASH! Foodbanks are able to stretch your money further by buying supplies in bulk, or through relationships, they may have built with retailers. This is often the only way they can provide perishable items such as bread, milk, meat, and fruit.

The best donations are what goes into a typical food parcel: cereal, soup, pasta, rice, tinned fruit and veg, tinned meat, tea/coffee, UHT milk, lentils and pulses, and fruit juice. Most food banks will also take non-food essentials such as shampoo, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, baby supplies, face masks/hand sanitiser, toothbrushes and toothpaste. However, it’s always best to check with your local foodbank directly as requirements vary between individual branches.

While staples are essential, don’t be afraid to also donate more luxurious items such as chocolate and biscuits. It’s a small gesture, but they will go a long way to making someone’s day a little easier.

How do I find my local foodbank?

The Trussell Trust has a guide to finding your local foodbank: just enter your town, city, or postcode!

Alternatively (as some are independently organised), most foodbanks have an associated Facebook page where you can receive information, updates, and ask questions: just type “foodbanks near [town/city]” into the search bar.

If you live somewhere with no local food banks, there are still other ways to help people in need (see below). You can also make monetary donations to the Trussell Trust via their website.

How do I find out what my local foodbank needs?

Beyond the typical necessities, many food banks will list items they especially require either through shortage or high demand. This will usually be found on their Facebook pages, but can also be found via the GiveFood website. Just enter your postcode, your parliamentary constituency, or click on the interactive map to find what your local food bank is requesting for donations.

You can also message your local foodbank’s page with specific enquiries as to what they need most. If you’re unsure, just ask!

Where should I give my donations?

Direct deliveries to the foodbank itself are the best way to get your donations to those who need them. Donations via supermarkets often go towards tax write-offs (any money spent by companies on charitable endeavours is typically tax-deductible), though if you don’t live close to a foodbank they’re still a reasonable option. Some organisations with direct connections to local food banks will set up street collections in city centres and outside supermarkets, where you can hand over your donations, and they will transport everything themselves at the end of the day.

How else can I support my local foodbank?

Foodbanks aren’t a fact of life, and many of the charities and organisations involved in the running and support of foodbanks are working in the hope of putting themselves out of a job. To best show your support, you can join an organisation working to address the root causes of poverty in Britain, one with the aim of ultimately eradicating the conditions whereby working people in the sixth-richest nation on the planet are going hungry. These organisations include community groups, trade unions, welfare awareness organisations, and others who campaign for employment and housing rights and the protection of welfare.