Using a food bank

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Food banks are community organisations that can help if you can’t afford the food you need.

You’ll usually need to get a referral to a food bank before you can use it. This includes all food banks run by the Trussell Trust.

You can get a referral for yourself and any family members you live with - including your partner.

You might be able to use some food banks without a referral - for example, if it’s run by a church. Contact your local food bank to see if you need a referral.

Getting a referral

You can ask your nearest Citizens Advice to refer you to a food bank. They'll usually make an appointment for you to discuss your situation with an adviser first.

The adviser will ask you some questions to check you’re eligible for the food bank. If you’re eligible, they’ll give you a voucher for your nearest food bank.

They can also check if you should be getting any benefits you're not currently claiming and tell you about other local help you could get. The adviser can give you advice about budgeting and any debts you have.

Find your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you can't go to Citizens Advice

You can ask for a referral from another organisation - for example your GP, housing association or social worker.

Your local council might be able to tell you how to get a referral to a food bank.

When you contact your local council, ask if they can also help you with other essential costs like clothes and petrol. They might give you help from their ‘household support fund’ or ‘welfare assistance scheme’.

You can find your local council's contact details on GOV.UK.

Going to a food bank

When an organisation refers you to a food bank, they’ll give you a voucher and tell you where the food bank is. Check if the voucher is only valid on a specific day - you can ask the person who refers you.

If the food bank is run by the Trussell Trust you can check the address on the Trussell Trust website.

The food bank will give you a food parcel. Your parcel will usually contain enough food for 3 days. The food bank might also be able to give you essential toiletries, like toothpaste or deodorant.

When you visit the food bank, let them know if you have any allergies or dietary requirements - they should be able to help you.

The food bank might be able to deliver your food parcel if:

  • you live in a rural area and can't afford to travel

  • you’re sick or disabled and can’t travel

Contact the food bank to check if they can deliver.

If the food bank is run by a church or other religious group, they'll still help you if you're not religious or from a different religion.

If you need to use the food bank again

You'll need to get another referral before you can use the food bank again.

Some food banks have a limit on the number of times you can visit - but it's still worth asking if you really need the food. If you're in this situation, talk to an adviser.

The adviser will ask you some questions about why you still need to use the food bank. They'll refer you if they agree it's the best way to help you. Even if they can't refer you they'll give you advice on debt or problems with benefits if you need it.

Get help with the cost of living

If you're over 18, you can use the Turn2us benefits calculator to check which benefits you can get.

You can also check what other help you can get with the cost of living.

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