All food given out by foodbanks is donated. Often this is from schools, churches, businesses, individuals, or through supermarket collections. Supermarket collections help foodbanks engage the public. Foodbank volunteers offer shoppers a ‘foodbank shopping list’ and ask them to buy an extra item with their shop. This food is then handed to volunteers waiting beyond the checkout who pack it before it is taken to the foodbank warehouse for further sorting and storage.
At the warehouse, volunteers weigh and sort the donated food according to type and 'best before date'. They also check it is undamaged and suitable for use before packing it into boxes for storage.
Professionals from statutory and voluntary organisations such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, Citizens Advice Bureau staff, welfare officers, the police and probation officers, identify people in crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher.
Clients bring their voucher to a foodbank centre where it can be exchanged for three days supply of emergency food. The list of foods in each parcel have been designed by dieticians to provide recipients with nutritionally balanced food. Some foodbanks run a delivery service, to get emergency food to clients living in rural areas and those who are unable to get to a foodbank.
Whilst their food is being packed, Foodbank volunteers will sit and chat with clients over a cup of tea or hot meal. This enables them to hear their stories and signpost them to agencies who can offer additional help and begin to resolve any underlying problems.