Scaling up foodbank deliveries

Last year I wrote a post about using internet shopping to deliver food to UK foodbanks. It’s over here…

Since I wrote that the situation highlighted has escalated, with benefit delays being the main cause of a 19% increase in people having to rely on foodbank parcels.

Number of three-day emergency food supplies given by Trussell Trust foodbanks

Again, I’m not going to push a political view here — although, it’s ridiculous that people rely on food handouts in our incredibly rich country.

What I did

I’ve spent the year scaling up the initial approach from delivering to an individual foodbank to supplying 32 different locations across the UK. I’ve also spent time visiting foodbanks and finding out how they operate.

Overall I’ve used this internet shopping technique to deliver about 23,500 individual items and 7.6m calories — in total weighing over 9.2 tonnes.

What I learnt

I’ve got the cost to feed one person the required calories for a day down to around £2.50.

A delivery makes it to Blackburn Foodbank

Basic items such as rice, baked beans, pasta, and soup are rarely required, as they are the most often donated items at donation bins at places like supermarkets.

Some rough rules of thumb emerged at this scale: £1 buys 1kg of food, so £1,000 buys a tonne. A tonne of food contains ~800,000 calories.

Tesco’s delivery saver, and I assume other supermarket’s equivalents, are brilliant. Makes getting the right delivery slot less of a problem, and I’ve saved hundreds pounds using it.

The most common items bought are all tinned: tomatoes, potatoes, peas, sweetcorn, fruit, rice pudding & custard. These will last a good 6 months to a year on a shelf. You can’t go wrong getting some of these core set of tinned products delivered to a foodbank.

What foodbanks can do

Most foodbanks do a good job explaining how to deliver food to them — outlining the location, any instructions (like, use the side door) and opening hours.

Foodbanks that explicitly outline a warehouse and hours to get donations delivered are most helpful. Even better if they acknowledge that internet shopping deliveries are welcome there.

There are a couple of foodbanks it’s impossible to deliver to because they aren’t open for a full hour — only, for example, between 9:30am and 10:30am. Because internet shopping delivery slots are per hour (e.g 10am to 11am) it’s not possible to ensure the delivery can be made.

Other things that have caused problems include foodbanks understandably not being open on bank holidays, and Tesco refusing to deliver to an address that they deem to be ‘commercial’.

Most foodbanks publish a shopping list on their websites, or social media, but few keep it updated frequently.

It’s still seemingly impossible to see which foodbanks need help over others.



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

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Jason Cartwright

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