Citizens Advice: How to use a food bank if you’re struggling to feed your family



The surging cost of living is pushing more and more households towards breaking point. Energy bills, food shops, a tank of petrol and the cost of other everyday essentials are all rising in price, and it’s leaving many families facing some tough decisions.

According to the Resolution Foundation, UK households can expect outgoings to increase by an eye-watering £1,200 this year.

When it comes to the weekly shop, the cost of groceries is 5.2 per cent higher than it was a year ago, according to Kantar data. While more shoppers are switching to buying cheaper products and supermarket own-brand labels – others are struggling to afford even the bargain products.

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For families facing a food shortage, the UK has a network of charity food banks that can help. A recent survey found that almost one in 10 parents say they are “very likely” to need to use a food bank in the next three months.

A third of parents surveyed by the Trussell Trust and Deliveroo admitted that they skipped one or more meals to keep up with other essential costs, while one in five say they have been unable to cook hot food on at least one occasion because they could not afford to use the oven.

Here’s what Citizens Advice says about when you can use a food bank and how to go about it.

Who can use a food bank?

If you are struggling to afford food, you may be able to get essential supplies from a local food bank. To use one, you’ll need to get a referral and there are several different ways you can do this.

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Your nearest Citizens Advice branch is a good place to start. There, you can speak to an adviser, who will assess your income and needs. The adviser can check if you should be getting any benefits you’re not currently claiming and can also offer advice about budgeting and any debts you have. If you’re eligible for help through a food bank, the adviser can refer you to your nearest one.

You can also ask for a referral from an organization that’s already supporting you – for example, a charity, school or children’s centre. Your local council might also be able to tell you how to get a referral to a food bank and they may also offer assistance with getting vouchers for things like clothes or petrol.

What a food bank will provide

The organization that grants you a referral will tell you where your nearest food bank is and will provide you with vouchers that you can exchange for a food parcel. If your local food bank is run by a church or other religious group, they will still help you if you’re not religious or from a different religion.

According to the Trussel Trust, an emergency food parcel will contain a minimum of three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced food. A typical food parcel might include items such as:

  • Cereal
  • soup
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Tinned tomatoes/pasta sauce
  • Lentils, beans and pulses
  • Tinned meat
  • Tinned vegetables
  • tea/coffee
  • Tinned fruit
  • biscuits
  • UHT milk
  • fruit-juice

Food banks will also provide essential non-food items like toiletries and hygiene products where they can. If you live in a rural area and can’t afford to travel, your nearest food bank might be able to deliver to you.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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