Staff at food banks are bracing themselves for the busiest ever December – and Tesco is the best place to donate
Staff at food banks are bracing themselves for the busiest ever December – with 200,000 emergency grocery parcels to be handed out over the next few weeks.
Soaring heating bills and families struggling to pay for Christmas are behind a 40 per cent plus rise in demand month on month.
The food bank idea was unheard of a decade ago but there are now more than 2,000 in Britain handing out around 1.6 million grocery packages a year, according to food charity The Trussell Trust.
Hard times: Food banks were unheard of a decade ago but there are now more than 2,000 in Britain
Yet before popping a can of baked beans or box of cereal into a collection point at your local supermarket, consider the best way to offer support. Perhaps the most generous is Tesco, which adds a cash donation of £1.75 for every kilogram of goods donated. The cash goes directly to the food bank.
Tesco estimates the cash is equivalent to a 20 per cent uplift on the value of items donated. So if you want to maximize what Tesco gives, consider heavier items for donation such as bags of sugar and bulky tins rather than packets of crisps.
Although Tesco has more than 3,500 stores nationwide only 450 have a permanent food collection point – though others may offer a temporary one over Christmas.
While other supermarkets also take food collections they do not match donations with extra cash. Sainsbury’s has food collection points at 1,080 stores while Waitrose donated 470 tons of food to The Trussell Trust last year from 340 stores. Asda also offers donation points – and set aside a further £9 million last year to help food bank causes.
Some, including Lidl and Aldi, do not support externally run food banks, but donate food via their own programmes.
The Trussell Trust is an umbrella charity under which about 1,200 food banks operate – many run by churches, The Salvation Army and small local groups.
To find details of food banks in your area visit the Trussell Trust website and tap in your postcode. Details of a further 800 independent food banks can be found by contacting the trade group Independent Food Aid Network UK.
Dame Hilary Blume, founder of the Charities Advisory Trust that supports fundraising initiatives, says: ‘You have to be careful when donating. A lot of supermarkets have collection point baskets where you are encouraged to drop off perhaps a tin of fruit or packet of pasta. But it is usually only you that are helping the food banks – and rarely the supermarket. Most shops pocket the profit from sales so in effect are making money from donations.’
WHO YOUR GIFTS WILL HELP
Most people who visit food banks are on the breadline and receiving benefits, such as income support. Up to half seeking help are families struggling to make ends meet as a result of being in lowly paid employment.
To receive help from a food bank you must be assessed by a local professional such as doctor, teacher or social worker. They can then issue shopping vouchers to be used at a food bank.
A single food voucher might be redeemed in exchange for up to three days of household essentials – for an individual or family. Essentials include not just basic groceries but vital toiletries as well.
If you need support you can visit either The Trussell Trust or Independent Food Aid Network UK website to find a food bank in your region and ask them who you must contact to be referred for help.
There is nothing to stop you cutting out the grocery store altogether and going direct to a local food bank. The Trussell Trust offers a ‘find a food bank’ search facility on its website with 1,200 centres where you can drop off essentials. Doing it this way, you can find out exactly what is wanted. The items food banks welcome include boxed cereals, soup, pasta, rice, sauces and lentils.
Tinned meat, vegetables, fruit, tea, coffee and biscuits are also received with open arms. But it is often toiletries, such as shampoos and sanitary towels, that are desperately needed but sometimes overlooked by donors. Food banks may also be in need of practical help – for example, volunteers.
Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, says: ‘Hunger in Britain is not about food – it is about people not having enough money. More than 90 per cent of those that seek our help are surviving on just £50 a week after rent. Often these people are struggling due to delays in receiving benefit payments.’
She adds: ‘Some have mental health problems while others are struggling as a result of a recent job loss or a difficult relationship breakdown. Any of us can be hit by such issues so it is important we offer support whenever we can.’