Food banks

Distributing unwanted or surplus food via ‘food banks’ and redistribution charities puts food that would otherwise have been wasted to good use. 

Both residents and business in the community can donate to such schemes.

Key points

  • Households can find themselves with surplus or unwanted food.
  • It is preferable from a social perspective to redistribute food so that it can still be used for its original intention – feeding people!
  • Several food redistribution organisations operate in the UK.

Householders sometimes buy more than they need or purchase the wrong ingredient for a recipe, or plans change – ever planned a barbeque only for the weather forecast to change? 

According to the waste hierarchy, donating to a scheme is preferable to disposing food, placing it in a local authority food waste collection service or a home composter.

For more information on the waste hierarchy, see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-applying-the-waste-hierarchy

Food banks

Food banks help collect and distribute unwanted food from households to people who are in most need.

In the UK, the largest food bank operation is run by The Trussell Trust which accepts food donated by the public (donation points are known as ‘food banks’) which is then sorted by the trust’s volunteers. Frontline care professionals such as doctors and social workers identify people in crisis and issue a food voucher. Clients receive three days of nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food in exchange for their food voucher.