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How to help others and donate to food banks this winter

Written by: Rebecca Goodman
This winter is expected to be the most challenging yet for the food bank network as soaring costs push more people to use the service.

Inflation has hit 11.1%, energy bills are soaring, and wages are not keeping pace – leaving many people struggling to pay their bills.

The cost-of-living crisis, which is not expected to ease any time soon, means more people are being forced to use food banks.

For the first time, demand for food banks is outstripping donations, according to The Trussell Trust. It has just launched an emergency fund appeal to keep food banks running over the winter.

It said an emergency food package is given out every 13 seconds, with record levels of food being handed out this year. In the six months to September, 320,000 people have turned to food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK network – a 40% increase compared to 2021.

Of the near 1.3 million food parcels provided, Trussell Trust said half a million went to children.

There are many ways you can help, if you’re in a position to do so. Here’s how to get involved and the best way to help others during the crisis.

What to donate to a food bank

Over 90% of the food donated to food banks comes from the public and they also take non food items too. Your local food bank will list the items it is in need of, and you can find it by searching on the Trussell Trust website. 

Typical items you may find include the following:

  • Cereal
  • Soup
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Tinned tomatoes and pasta sauce
  • Lentils, beans and pulses
  • Tinned meat, vegetables and fruit
  • Tea/coffee
  • Biscuits
  • UHT milk
  • Fruit juice.

You can usually donate food directly to the food bank when it’s open, or to a local supermarket collection point.

How to make a cash donation

You can also make a cash donation if you’re able to. This can be a one-off donation, or you can set up a regular amount to give. You can make a payment via a debit or credit card, by cheque, or by sending a text message.

If you are a UK taxpayer, ticking the ‘Gift Aid’ box when you make a payment means a charity can claim an extra 25p for every £1 you donate, and it won’t cost you anything.

There are lots of other ways to give money to a food bank, or any local charity. You could ask for donations as part of an event or birthday, or you could leave a legacy in your will.

If your employer allows it, you could also give money through your wages, known as Payroll Giving or Give As You Earn. It’s a tax-effective way to donate money as the charity is able to take money from your gross salary, before tax is deducted, so it costs you less to donate more.

Volunteer your time to help others

There are many different roles which need to be filled to make a food bank work efficiently. This include people to hand out supplies, those to sort them, and drivers to get the food packages out to people.

The best way to find out how you can help is to contact your local food bank. It might also have details on a social media feed about current jobs it’s looking to fill and the requirements. Usually you will need to be able to commit to a certain number of hours each week.

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