In December 2011 the first food bank in Northern Ireland opened its doors in Newtownards. There are now 37 operating in this region according to The Trussell Trust who run a UK-wide network of food banks. Recent figures from the trust indicate more than 32,000 three day food parcels were handed out in Northern Ireland from March 2017 to April 2018. People are now relying on the emergency food supplies provided by food banks. Reasons for accessing these facilities range from redundancy, low income, receiving an unexpected bill or the recent roll out and deferred payments of universal credit.
How are they funded?
Food banks rely on donations of non-perishable in-date food, donated by the public at a range of places, such as schools, churches and business. The food is then sorted into emergency food parcels by volunteers, to be given to people in need. Supermarkets have massively increased their support for food banks offering in store donation trolleys at checkouts as well providing supplies on a local and regional level.
How can I get a food parcel?
In order to get help from the food bank you will need to be referred. Each food bank works with different professionals, such as doctors, health visitors, school staff and social workers. These professionals identify people in crisis and make referrals to the food bank using a voucher. Alternatively, you could ask for a referral at your nearest Citizens Advice centre. Tell them you need the food bank and they will make an appointment to discuss your situation with one of their advisers.
The food bank and referral agency use the voucher to gather some basic information which will help them identify the cause of the crisis, offer practical guidance and prepare suitable emergency food and non food items if required. Once you have been issued with a voucher, you can exchange this for a minimum of three days’ emergency food at your nearest foodbank centre.
A typical food parcel includes: (advise any special dietary requirements that you may have).
- Tinned tomatoes/ pasta sauce
- Lentils, beans and pulses
- Tinned meat
- Tinned vegetables
- Tinned fruit
Non food items include
- Toiletries – deodorant, toilet paper, shower gel, shaving gel, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, tooth paste, hand wipes
- Household items – laundry liquid detergent, laundry powder, washing up liquid
- Feminine products – sanitary towels and tampons
- Baby supplies – nappies, baby wipes and baby food
It is important to check how your local food bank operates before just turning up, as individual food banks may operate differently.
Food banks in Northern Ireland (Nov 18)
Ballymena Food Bank
Ballymoney Food Bank
Besom Northern Ireland Ballynahinch
*Contact to confirm food bank operation*
Tel: 02897 566 700 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bangor Co Down Food Bank
Carrickfergus Food Bank
Tel: 02893 438475
Causeway Food Bank
Craigavon Area Food Bank
Tel: 0845 2000 136,
Dundonald Food Bank
Enniskillen Food Bank
Tel: 07512 548849
Foyle Food Bank
Tel: 02871 263699 or 07716129788
The Larder, St Christopher’s Church, Belfast
Tel: 07970 626384
Larne Food Bank
Tel: 074 4343 5404
Lisnaskea Food Bank
Tel: 02867 722677
Lisburn Food Bank
Tel: 07756 965868
Newry Food Bank
Tel: 07512 946911
Newtonbreda Baptist Church Food Bank
Tel: 028 9064 9402
Newtownards Food Bank
North Belfast Food Bank
Strabane Food Bank
South Belfast Food Bank
Have you used a food bank in the past? Would you consider using one? If not, why not? Start the conversation and share your experiences of food banks .