A visit to the food bank isn’t exactly a traditional activity, but one UK charity is asking for a little extra help , when demand is at its highest and families are choosing between eating and heating.
The Trussell Trust operates 425 food banks across the UK providing emergency food and support for people in crisis. Last year, the charity’s food banks gave three-day emergency food supplies to more than 130,000 people in the UK, nearly half of whom were children.
While many of us know that food banks provide food – and are happy to donate tinned items and other grocery items – not all of us are aware that food banks could do with donations of other essential non-food items as well.
“We asked food bank managers and users across the UK and these are all the things people say consistently – time and time again – they need, but they are not things people often think to buy,” says Molly Hodson from the Trust. “And they make such a difference.”
1. Toilet roll
This is self-explanatory, and always necessary. “One food bank is having to ration it to one roll per household,” says Hodson.
2. Sanitary towels
“We don’t have the data on how users of the food banks break down across gender lines,” says Hodson. “When someone comes to the food bank, they’ll often pick up for the whole household.” But she adds: “Feminine hygiene products are an awkward thing to say that you’re short of. If you’re at the point where you can’t afford food, chances are that you’re not going to be able to afford sanitary products either.”
“It’s really important, especially in terms of dignity, to be able to cope. We’ve heard some horrible reports from some of our food banks where women were having to use newspaper and that sort of thing. Obviously you have to be resourceful in these situations and people come up with all kinds of coping mechanisms but we’d prefer they didn’t have to cope, and that they actually were able to have what everybody else has.”
3. Tin openers
“There are all kinds of people who don’t have these, especially women who’ve been relocated because of domestic abuse,” says Hodson.
And as food banks get a lot of tinned, non-perishable food, this is a handy thing to drop off at the collection point.
Generally, food banks would prefer disposable nappies over cloth nappies. “The best thing people can do is call their local food bank and find out what they need,” says Hodson.
Mostly we need larger (size 4 and above) nappies but we get parents with children of all ages.
5. Toiletries (shampoo, shower gel, deodorant)
Bring or buy packs of toiletries, if you have been given these, say, as an unwanted present. Take them to your local food bank collection point. “If people don’t want them,” says Hodson, “it’d be amazing if they gave them to the food bank, because it’s the kind of thing that makes a massive difference.”
Shaving gels, foams and rasors are also welcome.
6. Pet food
Some foodbank customers have pets, especially dogs or cats, so pet food is welcome. Often they will put their pet’s needs before their own.
There are lots of places around the UK where you can drop off food and other items for foodbanks.
The Trussell Trust has a map of its foodbanks here and donations can also be made at selected supermarkets across the UK. Ask in-store for details.