How to find and help London food banks during the festive season

People are increasingly having to rely on food banks, especially to feed their children  (Andy Buchanan / PA Archive)
People are increasingly having to rely on food banks, especially to feed their children (Andy Buchanan / PA Archive)

Millions of people will have to face difficult financial decisions this Christmas, such as choosing between buying food or presents, and many won’t be able to afford to keep their houses warm throughout the holiday season, according to new data.

National Debtline says this holiday season, about 6.5 million individuals will find it difficult to heat their houses while another 2.7 million will have to decide between buying food and presents, highlighting the severe effect that the ongoing cost of living crisis is having on household finances.

Another separate survey found that more than half of young people and renters in Britain are worried about the cost of Christmas.

The Ipsos survey for The Standard found that 44 per cent of adults in the country are worried about the holiday season amid the cost-of-living crisis, up from 31 per cent in 2020, given the price of presents, and food inflation making Christmas dinner more expensive.

Experts say they expect more people than ever to be relying on the likes of food banks, with the cost of living and Christmas combined adding more pressure on people this December.

Here’s how you can help your local London food bank.

Where is my local food bank?

Many food banks in London are part of the nationwide network overseen by the Trussell Trust. These food banks, which you can find in most London boroughs, operate via a referral system.

The easiest way to find the food bank nearest you is through the Trussell Trust website, where you can search for food banks in your area.

Alternatively, you can use Bankuet’s online map, which includes both Trussell Trust and independent London food banks.

You will also be able to find out when they’re open and the best way to contact them on their sites. It’s best to call before turning up with a donation, as the information online about opening hours might be out of date.

Donate food and goods

The simplest way to help your local food bank is to donate food items. More than 90 per cent of goods distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network is donated by the public.

You can either donate items directly to your local food bank, or at collection points in supermarkets across the country.

The Trussell Trust has compiled a list of suggested non-perishable food items to donate, including cereal, soup, pasta, rice, tinned tomatoes, lentils, beans, pulses, tinned meat, tinned vegetables, tea/coffee, tinned fruit, biscuits, UHT milk, and fruit juice.

You can also donate non-food items, such as toiletries, household items, feminine products, and baby supplies.

Give cash

If you don’t have time to donate food, donating money is a quick, easy, and effective way to help out your local food bank.

You can make a one-off donation, or become a regular donor, by setting up a direct debit on the Trussell Trust website.

In April 2022, Deliveroo introduced a round-up feature on its app which allows customers to make a charity donation easily when they check out. Generous Londoners have given enough money to provide more than 530,000 meals to food banks in the scheme’s first four months.

Supermarkets also now give the option of adding a donation to your online shopping basket. Ocado runs a scheme called You Give We Give, which matches the money customers donate.

Alternatively, you can give through Bankuet.

Sign up to volunteer your time

If you can’t afford to donate food or money but have time to give, food banks are always desperate for volunteers.

However much time you have to give, there are lots of different ways to help, whether that’s as a warehouse volunteer, delivery driver, or food bank centre helper.

Search for opportunities with the Trussell Trust using your postcode.

Set up a fundraiser

Whether you’re a walker or a baker, a runner or an adrenaline junkie, there are many ways you can fundraise for your local food bank.

The Trussell Trust has set up a list of charity challenges you can take part in, including running, walking, swimming, cycling, and overseas adventures.

Alternatively, you can fundraise at work, in the community, or at your place of worship.

Reach out

Possibly the most useful thing you can do for your local food bank is among the easiest — ask what they need. While the Trussell Trust, the nation’s largest food-bank charity, helps to set up and support sites, the individual operation in your region sets its own rules.

Others run via other charities or completely independently.

Check out their tweets to see what they are appealing for, send them an email to check what they are after, or give them a call and offer a few hours a week to stack tins.

Or visit the site for more ideas.