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8 ways you can help tackle food poverty in the UK

Recent figures from the UK’s largest and most co-ordinated foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, show that demand for free emergency food parcels is rising in the UK each year.

Millions of people in the country live in food insecurity, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and in many cases have little choice but to seek support from charitable organisations.

With the issue growing, people are becoming increasingly concerned about food poverty and thankfully there are things that can be done by individuals and communities to help support people in need. We spoke to experts to find out some of them…

1. Ask foodbanks what they need

“If someone is able to, they should find their local Trussell Trust foodbank and look at its website, which will have a list of its food needs at the moment.

We all have a fairly standard list of foods we give out and it’s a fairly long list, but at different times of the year and different times of the month, we will have a specific needs,” explains Daphine Aikens, founder and CEO of the Trussell Trust Hammersmith and Fulham foodbank.

“Sometimes I need milk, juice, biscuits and cereal but other times I need vegetables and meat.

“Alternatively, give your local foodbank a ring and ask what they need right now.”

2. Consider a financial gift instead

Foodbanks accept monetary gifts as well as food donations, and the former gives flexibility for those running the foodbank to buy what they most need.

“If somebody calls me up and says I can give you food or a financial gift I’d choose the gift and I can get exactly what I know I need,” Daphine said.

3. Don’t just donate beans and pasta

“We tend to always have an over-supply of soup, beans and pasta – they’re the things we don’t particularly need,” Hugh McNeill, the project manager of Trussell Trust Coventry foodbanks told Goodhousekeeping.co.uk.

“But things like UHT milk, tinned meat and tinned fish, those things are always in short supply and if we can get those donated to us that’s fantastic.”

“We try and encourage nappies and baby items, sanitary items like tampons, shower items and toothpaste.

Keep in mind children are using foodbanks and imagine what their needs are and try to provide for that,” Neil Coyle MP, founder and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on foodbanks added.

“Slow cookers are also a really useful item,” according to Dr Megan Blake, Director of Food Security and Food Justice at the University of Sheffield. MORE: ‘I NEVER THOUGHT FOR A SECOND I’D BE HERE’: THE REALITY OF UK FOODBANKS IN 2018

4. Do some fundraising

“If people want to do things like fundraising for us, a fun run or a sponsored swim to raise some money for us, it really helps us.

We’ve got a warehouse building to run in Coventry and it’s a huge outlay financially to have that building. We need support and it’s an ongoing battle to get that,” Hugh told us.

5. Support social enterprises

There are many social enterprises around the country doing their bit to connect food waste, created in manufacturing chains, supermarkets and other areas, with charities supporting people in need.

“The average family throws away 22% of their weekly shop.

In the UK there’s a really big mismatch between the amount of food that’s wasted and the amount of people who are hungry,” according to Laura Winningham, founder and CEO of City Harvest, an organisation that delivers food surplus to charities around London.

“We’ve delivered more than GBP2 million worth of food and have grown quickly because there is a need. We can’t keep up with both the supply and demand,” she added.

You can support City Harvest and other similar initiatives around the country in terms of giving food, money and time. 8 ways you can help tackle food poverty in the UK

6.

Volunteer – and not just before Christmas

“There are 40,000 volunteers at Trussell Trust foodbanks alone – there are thousands more people who are involved in the independent foodbank network and on a micro level in churches, mosques and community groups,” Neil Coyle MP told Goodhousekeeping.co.uk

“Having 40,000 people is proving really hard to sustain for Trussell Trust – they need more volunteers, particularly during peak periods. You get a spurt of volunteering before Christmas then people disappear to have their own breaks and of course that’s the most expensive part of the year for cold weather purposes as well as Christmas. People need more help,” Mr Coyle added.

MORE: ‘I LOST EVERYTHING’: MY STORY OF FACING BANKRUPTCY, TURNING TO A FOODBANK AND REBUILDING MY LIFE

7. Lobby your MP

Mr Coyle, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, is encouraging people to speak to their own representative in parliament about foodbanks.

“Put pressure on [your] MP, ask them to visit a foodbank and see for themselves. First-hand experience can count for a lot.

I think we’d get a lot more traction and be able to get swifter movement from the government,” Mr Coyle added.

8. Make time for your community

“Volunteering, if you have the time, is great and it does not need to be in a foodbank,” according to Dr Megan Blake.

“Food brings people together so eating occasionally with people through places that offer social eating [such as initiatives like People’s Kitchen] is also a good thing. When you sit and chat with people you do not already know, who you may not normally come into contact with, you will expand your understanding of the complexity of life as well as break down barriers.

“Finding ways to interact with each other that do not impose a financial barrier is an important way to support a society that is more inclusive.”

(Images: Getty)

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