What you can do to support your local food bank

The pandemic has hit people hard financially and as we head into winter, charities and organizations are preparing to help people get through the colder months. Here's how to support your local food bank.

Over the past decade, food banks have proven to be a vital service in the community. Around 1.9 million people in the UK used food banks in 2019/20. This is an increase of approximately 300,000 from the previous year. Footballer Marcus Rashford's #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign has also made headlines throughout the pandemic. He is working with charity Fareshare, which is committed to eradicating food poverty and reducing food waste in the UK.

There are many ways you can donate to food banks, whether it's food, money or your time.

How to find your local food bank

The Trussell Trust is a network of food banks across the UK providing supplies to those in need. They have 1,200 food banks that provide people with meals for at least three days. On their website you can use the interactive map to find the nearest affiliated food bank in your area. Likewise, Peabody has a list of London-based food banks, many of which are part of the Trussell Trust network.

The Independent Food Network has collected details of 929 independent food banks, the Trussell Trust network and school, college and Salvation Army distributors. You can find them on the map and find the one closest to you. In addition to food banks, there are other options and independent food networks have developed other food assistance services.

Bankuet is another national food bank network. You can donate once or monthly, and choose whether you'd like to donate to a specific food bank (such as one in your area) or simply to help the network more broadly.

How to donate

There are many ways you can donate food and other items to food banks. Once you find the person closest to you, you can either go directly to donate or go to a collection point in a supermarket. Tesco is part of the Trussell Trust, while Morrisons and Sainsbury's also donate to food banks.

Before donating to a food bank, you should consider what you want to donate. Food may need to be preserved for a period of time, so it is not recommended that you serve fresh fruits and vegetables. The Trussell Trust outlines some of the best items to give away. Cereals, rice and pasta top the list, along with canned soups, sauces, vegetables, tea, coffee and juices.

In addition to food poverty, many food banks also develop care packages to tackle health poverty. Health Banks specialize in this and can point you in the direction of the nearest health bank. However, many food banks also accept deodorant, toilet paper and soap. Menstrual products and baby products are also in demand. Once you've found your nearest food bank, it's a good idea to contact them before donating to see if they specifically need any items.

If you would like to donate to help support your local food bank, you can visit the donation page on the Trussel Trust or the Independent Food Network, which supports many food banks.

How to volunteer

Another way to help your local food bank is to donate your time. Once you find your local food bank, you can contact your local food bank and ask if they need any help. Alternatively, the Trussell Trust website has a tool where you can enter your postcode and it will give you any opportunities in the surrounding area.