The lowdown on foodbanks

What is a foodbank?

A foodbank is a place where individuals and families are given food because they are struggling to afford it themselves. It is not a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. The food given at foodbanks is non-perishable, provides enough to feed a family for three days and is cooked at home. Foodbanks are often led by churches and can be held anywhere, in fact the first the first foodbank in the UK began in a garden shed in Salisbury; it now feeds 4000 people a year.

Who is eligible for food banks?

A common misconception is that anyone can walk into a foodbank. But these are not places for cheeky students hoping for some free food. Foodbanks are for those who are really struggling to afford food on top of paying the bills, and who are often going without a meal themselves to feed their children. Care professionals such as doctors, social workers, the police and school liaison officers help to identify people in such a crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher.

Where does the food come from?

Businesses, churches, schools, and individuals donate food to a foodbank. According to the Trussell Trust, food can also be collected at Supermarket Collections, where volunteers give shoppers a list of a few extra items that could be donated to a foodbank. All food has to be non-perishable and in-date. See our page here on what food can be donated.

Who runs foodbanks?

Foodbanks are community projects led by churches and supported by businesses, schools and the local community. The umbrella organisation of all foodbanks across the UK is called The Trussell Trust. They operate over 200 foodbanks across the UK and fed almost 129 000 people last year. The Trussell Trust is a Christian charity whose mantra is that no one in the UK should have to go hungry. 13 million people in the UK live in poverty and over half of them are in working households so the need for more foodbanks is sadly becoming vital. The Trussell Trust hope to open 450 foodbanks across the UK by 2015.

Why is the need for foodbanks growing stronger?

There is no one reason why more and more people across the UK are beginning to see foodbanks as a vital lifeline but the recession has played a huge part. Rising living costs including food and fuel, flat-lining incomes, higher rent prices and welfare benefit cuts have all played their part. A lot of households in Britain don’t have any savings so often all it takes is an unexpected repair bill, a cut in working hours or sudden unemployment to send a household over the edge. The universal benefits cap in April 2013 at £500-a-week could also see a greater demand for foodbanks in the near future.

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