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Using a food bank

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Start by looking online to see if there are any independent local food banks that you can go to without a referral. If there aren't any, you'll need to be sent by someone else. For example by a charity or someone like a GP or social worker.

A good place to ask for a referral is your nearest Citizens Advice. Tell them you need the food bank - they'll probably make you an appointment to discuss your situation with an adviser.

The adviser will ask you some questions about your income and needs. For example, if you need the food for just you or your whole family. If you're eligible for the food bank, they'll tell you how to get food.

You can ask the adviser about other local help you could get and to check if you should be getting any benefits you're not currently claiming.

If you can't go to Citizens Advice

Your local council might be able to tell you how to be referred to be food bank. You can find your local council's contact details on nidirect. When you contact them, ask if you can get help with other things like clothes or fuel vouchers, if you need them.

Going to a food bank

If you've been referred, you should be told where the food bank is. If it's run by the Trussell Trust you can check the address on their website.

If you live in a rural area and can't afford to travel, your nearest food bank might be able to deliver. Call or email them to check.

If the food bank's 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

If you needed a referral to use the food bank, you'll need to get another one before you go back.

If you've been told your food bank has a limit on the number of times you can visit, it's still worth asking if you really need the food. The best place to do this is at your nearest Citizens Advice.

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.

Next steps

Check if you can get extra help if you're on benefits or your benefits have stopped
Use the Turn2Us benefits calculator to check which benefits you could get

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