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Emergency Information - Food banks

You might find yourself caught short of money and need help with essentials like food or paying your bills. Please look at the range of support options we discuss in this guide.

Food banks

Food banks (sometimes spelt foodbanks), largely run by volunteers, provide emergency boxes of food (usually a supply for a minimum of three days) and offer support for people in a crisis. The food is donated by members of the local community.

Many also give personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, soap, toiletries and sanitary products.

Some may also be able to help with pet food.

Some foodbanks offer hot meals and advice sessions. They may also be able to refer you to other local agencies for further help, depending on your situation.

Accessing a food bank

To get access to a food bank, you need a foodbank voucher from a professional or organisation that the local foodbank accepts referrals from. This might be a health or care professional or local organisation such as Citizens Advice.

The Trussell Trust is a charity that has a network of over 1,200 foodbanks across the UK.To find your local Trussell Trust foodbank, use the Trussell Trust website, which also has information on how foodbanks work.

There are also around 800 independent foodbanks across the UK. See the Independent Foodbanks Network (IFAN) website for more information on independent foodbanks.

Other places where free or low cost food may be available

You can ask your local council, local charities or Citizens Advice about other local sources of free or low cost meals. These might include:

  • Soup kitchens

  • Places to go for free or low cost breakfasts or hot meals. For example, as part of their religion's teachings, Sikh temples (known as gurdawaras) provide langar (free vegetarian food) every day that everyone who visits them is welcome to enjoy, regardless of their faith, gender, age or status. People sit on the floor together to eat the food which is cooked and served by Sikh volunteers.

  • Emergency breakfast schemes for children

  • FoodCycle schemes: A charity that runs projects in England using surplus food that might otherwise go to waste to feed people who struggle to afford the basics to eat.

You can find your local council's details on the Gov.UK website.

You can use our Find an Adviser tool to find your closest Citizens Advice or other local organisations that may be able to help you.

Pet food

Turn2us users sometimes ask us about sources of help for emergency pet food. Some food banks may be able to help with emergency pet food. If you have a foodbank voucher and need pet food as well, talk to the food bank staff and see if they can help.

Some people have set up pet food banks in their local areas. You could do an internet search to see if there is anything where you live or ask your local Citizens Advice bureau, similar advisory service or animal charity if they know of any local sources of help. You can use our Find an Adviser tool (see the link above) to find local advisers

Some charitable funds listed on our Grants Search may also be able to help, if you meet their eligibility criteria for help, depending on your background, circumstances and needs, as well as what purposes they give grants for.


There is a Pet Foodbank in Scotland.

Last updated: November 2019

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