Aside from accepting donations such as baked beans and soup, what else is there to know about the organisations that provide emergency relief to people in crisis?
According to recent reports from the Trussell Trust, food bank use has increased at least 13% in the last year. Around 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty and Universal Credit has had a huge impact on the lives of people with a low-income, with food banks experiencing an average 30% increase of demand in areas of full Universal Credit roll out.
So apart from the fact that UK food banks evidently need more support than ever, what else is there to know about this increasingly prevalent issue?
1) Food banks provide more than just food
Many food banks are able to provide essentials such as toiletries, sanitary products, nappies and pet food. Although they are always grateful to accept food items, why not think outside the box and donate some toothpaste, deodorant and shower gel? They can go a long way in helping somebody to feel better about themselves when they are experiencing a crisis. Get in touch with your local food bank and find out if they include these items before donating them.
2) Poverty affects your health
Mental and physical health are closely associated with poverty, with more than a quarter of adults in the poorest fifth of the population experiencing depression and anxiety. The stress of coping with the effects of poverty can certainly be detrimental to health. In reverse, those with poor physical or mental health are more likely to be affected by low income or income loss, therefore increasing the likelihood that they will need to depend on a food bank.
3) Food banks offer important signposting services
Whilst food banks do provide a three day emergency food parcel, many food banks also provide vital signposting services for people facing poverty. For example, volunteers can give out information on finding emergency finance advice, welfare support, community groups, suggestions for other charities and support services and budget cookery courses. Sadly, social isolation often goes hand in hand with food poverty, and a warm welcome and non-judgemental conversation with a food bank volunteer can go a long way for somebody who is facing a crisis.
4) Food bank use is the last resort for most people
As if the decision to visit a food bank wasn’t traumatic enough, people often experience a huge amount of stigma when they are facing a financial crisis. A Child Poverty Action Group report shows that people accepting help from a food bank felt that it was ‘shameful’ and ‘embarrassing,’ and that they had been driven to the food bank after exhausting all other possible avenues of support.
5) It’s really easy to support your local food bank.
Whether you choose to volunteer, donate money, food or toiletry items, supporting your local food bank is simple. If you’re unsure what to donate, it’s best to check with your local food bank to see what they need. Along with the Trussell Trust network of food banks, many local churches, mosques and charities run their own food bank services to support their local community. Don’t be shy, get in touch and see how you can help!
Supporting food banks is therefore a straightforward way to positively impact your local community and help the most vulnerable people in society. You could make a real difference by donating some food items or volunteering. Who knows, you might even change somebody’s life.
Written by Katie McCall, Communications volunteer for Manchester South Central Food Bank.
Originally published on Huffington Post.