Donating food to foodbanks

Number of three-day emergency food supplies given by Trussell Trust foodbanks
Norwood & Brixton Foodbank — Brixton Branch

What food is given to those in need?

The Trussell Trust has a standardised food parcel that aims to cover the nutritional needs of an adult for three days.

Brixton Foodbank shelves

What to donate?

Non-perishable food

Generally any donations of non-perishable food is good — if you want to make a food donation with little hassle this is the way to do it.

  • Tinned meat (pies, stews, curries, processed meat, fish)
  • Tinned vegetables (sweetcorn, potatoes, carrots, peas)
  • Tinned tomatoes (chopped, whole, pasta sauces)
  • Milk (UHT)
  • Soup (vegetable, chicken, tomato, fish)
  • Tinned desserts (fruit, custard, puddings)
  • Dried noodles
  • Cereal & oats
  • Biscuits
  • Tea & coffee
  • Spreads (peanut butter, jam, marmalade)
  • Pasta
  • Baked beans

Perishable food

Perishable items are generally bought by foodbanks on demand and on the day, or donated by local businesses like a greengrocers or bakery.

Non-food

Some foodbanks also give out non-food items to help people in crisis maintain their dignity. You should however check before potentially lumbering an organisation with items they are unable to give out.

  • Tampons & sanitary pads
  • Razors & shaving gel
  • Deodorant
  • Shower gel
  • Toothbrushes & toothpaste
  • Baby supplies (wipes, nappies)
  • Other household items (toilet roll, handwash, laundry detergent, washing-up liquid)
Sugar & biscuits ready for visitor at a foodbank

Other considerations

Foodbanks in religiously diverse areas of the country often prefer to receive meat products that don’t contain pork.

Logistics

Tesco delivery at a foodbank

Maximise your donation

  • Use loyalty cards for discounts.
  • Supermarket own-brand items offer just as good food for often much, much less money.
  • Multi-buy deals work great for this. You might not use the many tins of something required to get a lower price, but a foodbank certainly will. Don’t be afraid that you’ll over-order something that’s needed.
  • Don’t buy items packed in bulk unless they can be divvied up by the foodbank without opening the container. Food is given to recipient to cover three days.
  • Be clever with item sizes. A 400g tin of food probably will be cheaper per calorie and therefore a better buy than a 200g one. But, as above, you probably don’t want to buy, say, the single 1kg item as it’s unsuitable for distribution in a food parcel.

Trouble-free delivery

  • Pick the cheaper delivery slots, or use a scheme like Tesco’s Delivery Saver.
  • If possible pick a delivery slot earlier rather than later in the foodbank’s opening hours. That’ll allow time for sorting the donation and possibly handing out in a parcel the same day.
  • Use the online store’s delivery instructions text box to let the delivery driver know the order is for the foodbank. Also include the foodbank’s phone number, if possible. Saying ‘thank you’ in this box is recommended too!

Future ideas

Being a web developer, I wondered if it would be possible to scrape foodbank websites to discover their needs and then accessing supermarket APIs (e.g. Tesco) to find the lowest prices in order to generate loaded & optimised full shopping carts.

2019 Update

Since writing this I’ve started…

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Jason Cartwright

Jason Cartwright

I build things. Run a food bank charity. Green energy fanboy, sometime investor, sometime coder.