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12 Days of Wild: Season of Giving - The Importance of Food Banks this Winter

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Amelia Spanton highlights how food bank usage is on the rise across the UK, in tandem with the cost of living crisis and rising poverty rates. She details that as the winter months approach, supporting non-profit organisations like food banks is especially important now more so than any other time of year.


Shopping bags filled with food bank items. Image credit: Nico Smit on Unsplash.


Why food banks are essential for communities:


The latest statistics from The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank charity, uncover the extent of current food bank reliance. Between 2022 to 2023, the Trust distributed a record number of emergency food parcels, reaching close to 3 million. In their latest report they reveal that their network of food banks have witnessed the highest levels of to date.


The Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports incredibly high levels of destitution - a situation in the UK meaning that many people across the country are “struggling to afford to meet their most basic physical needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed.” The number of people experiencing destitution has spiralled, up 148% from 2017 to 2022. The organisation also reports that the majority of low-income households in the UK are going without essentials due to the current cost-of-living crisis.


Families with children especially feel the added strain, particularly during the school holidays when food banks face an increased demand without adequate supplies. Charity Action for Children announced in October that one in five parents are in dire financial straits, coining the phrase the ‘cost-of-children crisis’. 


These reports paint a picture of how widespread financial hardship is across the country and the pivotal role organisations like food banks play in supporting those in need. 


How food banks can help the planet:


Not only do food banks support communities, but they also can play a key role in the future of sustainability and greener food systems. Shockingly, one-third of all goods produced for human consumption are lost or wasted. These high food waste levels harm the environment but can be mitigated through redistribution. Supermarkets and hospitality businesses can create processes to reduce food waste and work with food banks to redistribute food. Charities, such as FareShare, work towards this and create networks of food redistribution across the UK. 


Data from the Global Food Banking Network found that globally food banks had recovered 3.75 million metric tons of food, and, through this, prevented over 12 billion kilograms of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere via food decomposition. Hence, supporting local food banks and charities is a win-win, protecting the planet and its people. 


How you can support your local food bank and charities:


There are three key ways in which you can help your local food banks, hygiene banks and charities: 

  1. Donating 

  2. Volunteering 

  3. Campaigning 

If you have the means, a brilliant way in which to support organisations is to donate key items or funds for them to purchase essential supplies. Generally, organisations list the key items that they require, which can often fluctuate depending on supply and demand. Before making purchases, be sure to look at the food bank’s website or social media to check if there are any specific products they need. Essentials generally include tinned and dried food, as well as items with a long shelf-life. Often including some treats can help brighten a person’s day and some food banks ask for items like advent calendars for children around the festive period. 


Similarly, check local hygiene banks to see what stock they need before donating as this can change across the year. Other organisations, such as homelessness charities, also take donations, particularly around the festive period and some encourage people to organise bags of items to give out.  


Another way you can support your local food bank and charities is to offer your time to help the cause. Many locations may need a helping hand, especially in the winter. Contact your local food bank to find out how you can help. 


Along with donations and volunteering, spread the word and campaign for the support of food banks. Whether that’s encouraging a friend to donate or advocating for food banks online, small actions can make a difference. 


Volunteers packing boxes of food to be given out. Image credit: CareFirst News on Flickr.


Finding a food bank near you:


The UK Government states that there are approximately 1,400 Trussell Trust food banks, in addition to at least 1,172 independent food banks across the UK.


To find your local Trussell Trust food bank, you can head to their website: https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/. Many supermarkets have set up drop-off points which makes it easy to donate items when you are doing a shop. Local council websites across the UK also list organisations that can provide help for those in need.


For university students, there may also be drop-off points on campus and student-led organisations that hold collections.


You can also support hygiene banks across the UK by donating a range of items. Hygiene banks offer a similar service for those in need of hygiene products and essential toiletries. You can find information on your local hygiene bank on their website: https://thehygienebank.com/.


Support those in need however you can and know that you are helping your community and the planet. 


About the Author: Amelia is a current History MA student at the University of York. In 2021, she graduated from the University of York with a BA in History and Politics and went on to work in communications for two years. She enjoys writing and creative projects and is excited about getting involved with Wild Magazine. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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