Food bank advice guide

A few weeks ago, we looked at the growing prevalence of food banks - and the reasons people are turning to them for help. This in-depth advice guide is here to give you some more information about food banks, including where to find one if you need to.

What is a food bank?

A food bank is a place where donated food is distributed to those who need it. Food banks are often set up in places like community centres and churches.

The rising cost of living, combined with wage freezes and job losses, means that many people in Britain are now living below the poverty line - 13 million people, in fact. When people can no longer afford to feed themselves or their family, they can turn to food banks for help.

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Who qualifies to use a food bank?

Not everyone can use a food bank - you have to be referred by a 'care professional' such as:

  • A doctor
  • A social worker
  • A health visitor
  • The police
  • Somebody from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

If you've been referred, you'll be given a voucher - which you should take to your nearest food bank. Once you're there your voucher can be redeemed for three days' worth of nutritionally balanced food.

Why would someone need to use a food bank?

There are a startlingly high number of reasons that somebody would need to use a food bank to feed themselves and their family, including:

  • Wage freezes and low incomes in general, making it hard to cope with the rising cost of living
  • Work hours being cut
  • Unexpected costs - such as an unexpectedly high bill
  • Losing their job
  • Losing benefits, or benefits being paid late
  • Being unable to work due to sickness, disability or mental illness
  • Divorce
  • Debt problems.

What help do food banks provide?

Food banks provide food - of course. If you hand over a voucher you'll be given three days' worth of nutritionally balanced food, including things like:

  • UHT milk
  • Sugar
  • Fruit juice
  • Soup
  • Pasta and pasta sauces
  • Rice
  • Tinned fruit and vegetables
  • Tinned meat and fish
  • Biscuits and snacks.

That's not all, however. At a food bank you can also find help and support. A volunteer could talk to you over a hot meal and discuss your situation. They may be able to refer you to a relevant agency that could help you solve your financial problems.

You could get help with anything from your debts to your mental health. Addressing long-term problems like these could really help you get back on track.

Where can I go for more information?

If you're looking for more information about food banks, the Trussell Trust website is a good place to start. You can find out more about what they do and whether they could help you.

The Trussell Trust has an ambitious goal: for every town to have a food bank in it.

If you want to find the one that's nearest to you, you can use this interactive map: click here to see if there are any food banks in your local area, as well as where new food banks are planned. You'll also find some useful contact information.

Helen Gradwell

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