Back in 2019, a survey found that almost 2 million Londoners, around 22% of the city's population, were struggling to afford or access enough food. Since its publication, food bank usage in the capital has soared, with over 421,000 Londoners relying on one in 2020-2021 — more than double the previous year's figure.
This is the legacy of austerity; draconian welfare cuts have plunged millions into food poverty, with job losses and reductions in household income incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs of living in tandem with stagnant wages further entrenching the crisis.
We want to see a different future – where no one needs to use a #foodbank because the right support exists for all of us, where it's unacceptable that anyone can't afford the basics. RT now and sign up for a #HungerFreeFuture > https://t.co/yviqQcqDWQ pic.twitter.com/nJAzW4eb5t— The Trussell Trust (@TrussellTrust) April 28, 2021
Food banks attempt to mitigate the lack of state provision by supplying emergency food to those in need. They are not a solution to the food poverty crisis. In fact, The Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks, actively campaigns to end the need for food banks in the UK. That said, in the absence of systemic change, food banks remain an essential lifeline for many people living in hunger.
How do London food banks work?
Many food banks in London are part of the nationwide network overseen by Trussell Trust. These food banks, which you can find in most London boroughs, operate via a referral system. A frontline professional from a local agency such as a children's centre, housing association, or your local Citizen's Advice Bureau will assess your situation and, if you're eligible, issue you with a voucher. You can then exchange this voucher at your nearest distribution centre for an emergency food parcel comprised of a minimum of three days' worth of nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food.
Other food banks don't require referrals — anyone in need can simply turn up and receive free food. Below, we've broken down what's currently available in each London borough. As well as information on getting help, we've also signposted how you can help support these vital services if you're in a position to donate food items, money, or your time.
Know about any we've missed? Tell us in the comments, or email email@example.com.
Barking and Dagenham
Getting help: Both Barking Foodbank and Dagenham Foodbank are part of the Trussell Trust-supported nationwide network — meaning you'll need to obtain a food voucher to use them. Find out how to do that here (for Barking) and here (for Dagenham). Other food banks in the borough include HumDum UK, which supplies fresh halal and vegetarian food to anyone in need — no referral needed — and Bethel Food Bank.
Giving help: Donate cash here for Barking Foodbank, here for Dagenham Foodbank. Want to volunteer? Check out current volunteer positions here and here. You can also donate food — see which items are most urgently needed and find your nearest drop off points here for Barking and here for Dagenham.
Getting help: This community website lists about a dozen food banks in the borough, as well as details on how to access them. Some, like The Trussell Trust's Chipping Barnet and Colindale Foodbanks, require a referral from Barnet Council or other proof of financial need. Others, like St Barnabus in North Finchley "work on a basis of trust and dignity" and don't require vouchers.
Giving help: The Barnet Council website has a database of the borough's food banks — most of which you can donate to or volunteer your time at.
Getting help: Bexley Foodbank is part of the network of food banks overseen by the Trussell Trust and as such you'll need a voucher in order to use it — more on that here. Once obtained, you can collect your food parcel from one of four centres across the borough.
Giving help: To donate money to Bexley Foodbank, click here. Find out what food items are most needed and check drop-off times here, or click here for volunteering opportunities. To find out more about supporting Slade Green Food Bank, you'll need to get in touch.
Getting help: Your best bet appears to be Brent Foodbank, part of a nationwide network supported by The Trussell Trust. You'll need to obtain a food voucher to exchange for a food package at one of two collection centres in Kenton and Neasden.
Getting help: First up, there's Bromley Foodbank, which you'll need a food bank voucher to access. This can be obtained from a number of referral agencies — details of those here. Bromley Foodbank has four collection centres — addresses and opening times can be found here.
A few other options in the borough, including those that don't require referrals, can be found here.
Giving help: Information for volunteering at or donating to Bromley Foodbank can be found here.
Getting help: There are three food banks overseen by The Trussell Trust in the borough of Camden: Camden Foodbank, Chalk Farm Foodbank, and Euston Foodbank (which, FYI offers weekend collection). All three require you to get a food bank voucher from a referral agency before you can collect your emergency food parcel.
Other options, including food banks that accept self-referrals, can be found on this brilliant interactive map by Find Food Support in Camden.
Getting help: Croydon Foodbank provides emergency food parcels to those with a voucher, which may be obtained via several referral agencies — details here — as does Shrublands Trust. Croydon Seventh-day Adventist Church runs a community kitchen every Tuesday which provides hot takeaway meals to anyone who turns up. Meanwhile, ELIM Food Hub invites people who are on benefits, have a low income, or those who are otherwise in need to collect fresh food every Saturday.
Getting help: The Ealing families directory helpfully lists all of the food banks currently operating in the borough, in addition to details on a soup kitchen and support accessing free school meals during the school holidays. Some, like Ealing Foodbank, require an agency referral — though if you are not already working with one of these, contact the Ealing Family Information Service on 020 8825 5588 or at firstname.lastname@example.org who can make a referral on your behalf. However, it appears that you can self-refer for Salma Food Bank, which asks families in need to contact them with a brief description of their situation — contact details here.
Getting help: Several food banks in Enfield are mapped out here. These include North Enfield Foodbank, which requires a referral from a local agency, plus a few services that appear to allow you to self-refer.
Giving help: You can donate to North Enfield Foodbank by clicking here.
Getting help: You must obtain a food bank voucher to use Greenwich Foodbank, which works with local agencies to provide the "most appropriate help for your circumstances". If you are already in contact with one of these agencies, you may obtain a food bank voucher via them. If not, you can get a voucher by calling Greenwich Community hub on 0800 470 4831. At the time of writing, the Trussell Trust has six pick-up points for foodbank users, which you can see here.
Giving help: Donate your time, money, or food items to Greenwich Foodbank by clicking here.
Getting help: You'll need to obtain a voucher to access Hackney Foodbank, which boasts five distribution centres across the borough. The Hackney Foodbank website helpfully lists an extensive range of local businesses and organisations that offer either food packages or free meals to those in need.
Giving help: Click here to donate to, or volunteer at, Hackney Foodbank.
Hammersmith & Fulham
Getting help: Hammersmith & Fulham Foodbank uses a voucher referral system, which you can find out about here. Once you've obtained your voucher, you can exchange it for a food parcel at one of four distribution centres across the borough.
Giving help: To donate food, money or time to Hammersmith and Fulham Foodbank, click here.
Getting help: Haringey Council website directs those in need to this incredibly detailed map, which covers several north London boroughs. It appears to have been created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so you'll want to check that your desired support service is still available. Options include Bounds Green Food Bank and Hornsey Food Bank, neither of which require a referral or voucher.
Giving help: There are many food banks in the borough of Haringey that could do with your support — use this map to find the one that's nearest to you, then click the relevant link and look for a 'volunteer' or 'donate' tab.
Getting help: Harrow Foodbank, part of the nationwide network supported by The Trussell Trust, uses a voucher referral system, which you can find out more about here. You may exchange your voucher for food at one of four distribution centres. Harrow Foodbank also offers a food parcel delivery service for "extremely vulnerable" people. Call 07521 651283 or 07521650265 to find out more about that.
Giving help: To donate food or money to Harrow Foodbank, or to apply to become a volunteer, click here.
Getting help: The borough of Havering is home to three Trussell Trust-supported food banks: Colliers Row & Romford Foodbank, Harold Hill Foodbank, and Rainham Foodbank. All three operate on a voucher referral system — click the links embedded above and navigate to 'get help' to find out more.
Getting help: The Trussell Trust-supported Hillingdon Foodbank requires you to obtain a referral voucher from a local agency — find out about that here. Once you've got your voucher, you can exchange it for a food package at one of eight distribution centres, spread across Hayes, Northwood, Ruislip, Uxbridge, and West Drayton.
Giving help: You can find out more about donating food or money to Hillingdon Foodbank, or volunteering there by clicking here.
Getting help: The London Borough of Hounslow website has a handy page signposting emergency food support services available in the area. A few of these, like Hounslow Community FoodBox and Feltham Food Bank, require a referral. The page also provides information on free school meals.
Giving help: Current volunteer opportunities at Hounslow Community FoodBox can be found here, and you can find out how to donate cash or food here. Other volunteer and donation opportunities available in the borough can be found here.
Getting help: Islington Foodbank operates on Mondays and Saturdays out of Highbury Roundhouse Youth and Community Centre. As with all food banks that are part of the Trussell Trust network, you'll need first to obtain a voucher from a referral agency before you can your food parcel.
Giving help: To donate your time, money, or food items to Islington Foodbank, click here. Alternatively, this page has the low-down on supporting The Arc Centre Food Bank and shows you exactly how your donation helps (one £20 donation, for example, can feed a large family for a week).
Kensington and Chelsea
Getting help: Kensington and Chelsea Foodbank — part of the Trussell Trust-supported network — operates out of Notting Hill Methodist Church on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you'll need to get yourself a referral from a local agency to use it. Other food banks can be found in this directory — including those that do not require a referral — with review dates next to each entry indicating that the page is updated regularly.
Giving help: Click here to donate to or volunteer at Kensington and Chelsea Foodbank.
Getting help: Kingston Foodbank operates from five locations in Surbiton, Chessington, New Malden, Tolworth, and Kingston-upon-Thames. As part of the network overseen by The Trussell Trust, you'll need a referral voucher in order to use it.
Giving help: Kingston Foodbank accepts donations of food and cash and is often recruiting volunteers — info here.
Getting help: Lambeth is home to four food banks supported by The Trussell Trust offering a home delivery service — in Clapham Park, Norwood & Brixton, Vauxhall, and Waterloo — which all require a referral from a local agency.
The borough also boasts several other independent suppliers of emergency food that allow you to self-refer. Social enterprise Lambeth Larder has put together a truly excellent directory signposting all the help available across the borough.
Getting help: Lewisham Foodbank also operates via a referral system, as part of the Trussell Trust-supported network. It has five distribution centres in Deptford, Catford, Forest Hill, Downham, and Lewisham, respectively. Other community food banks can be found on this webpage.
Getting help: Merton residents can use Wimbledon Foodbank, which operates out of four locations in Mitcham, Morden, Pollards Hall, and Wimbledon. You'll need to first obtain a voucher from a referral agency — find out about that here. Another option is Merton's Community Fridge, which looks like it accepts self-referrals.
Getting help: Newham District Foodbank operates out of Bonny Downs Church Hall in East Ham (Wednesdays) and Victoria Dock's Ascension Church (Thursdays). You'll first need a referral from a local agency — find out how to obtain one here.
Another option is independent charity Newham Food Bank, run in partnership with local churches which serve as distribution centres.
Getting help: The Trussell Trust-supported Redbridge Foodbank has four centres — two in Ilford, one in Chigwell, and one in South Woodford. You'll need to obtain a voucher from a local agency to demonstrate your eligibility for the food bank's emergency food parcels.
Giving help: Click here to find out how you can support Redbridge Foodbank — from donating to volunteering.
Richmond upon Thames
Getting help: Richmond Foodbank is supported by the Trussell Trust, which means you'll need a referral from a local agency before using it (details here). Once you've got your voucher, you can exchange it for an emergency food parcel at one of five centres in Barnes, Hampton, Richmond, Whitton, and Isleworth (though at the time of writing the latter is temporarily suspended).
Giving help: For details on how you can help support Richmond Foodbank, click here.
Getting help: Southwark Foodbank is spread across four centres, in Peckham, Camberwell and Bermondsey. Currently, you may only collect food parcels by appointment, and you will need to first get a referral from a local agency to make one.
Another option for those struggling to afford food in the borough is the Love North Southwark Food Pantry. Pay £5 and you'll get to choose 15 items including fresh fruit and veg, meat, dairy, tea, and coffee. Anyone can use the food pantry, which is open three days a week.
A second pantry-model option is the Borough Food Cooperative which charges £4.50 per shop for £20-£25 worth of groceries. This one is open to anyone — regardless of income, circumstance or residence. Borough Food Cooperative also hosts Waterloo Foodbank's Thursday outreach session and distributes of Alexandra Rose Charity vouchers for eligible families.
Giving help: Donate or check out volunteering opportunities at Southwark Foodbank here. Alternatively, you can get involved with Love North Southwark Food Pantry here. Register your interest in volunteering at the Borough Food Cooperative here.
Getting help: Sutton Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust-supported nationwide network, operates out of three churches in the south London borough. You'll need to get a voucher from a local agency to use the food bank, which you can find out more about here.
An alternative to Sutton Foodbank for those with recourse to limited funds is Sutton Community Works' Community Foodshop, where for a weekly membership fee of £3 a week you can choose from approximately 12 items of non-perishable, and chilled and frozen food.
Giving help: Click here to donate time, money or food to Sutton Foodbank.
Getting help: There are many organisations providing emergency food in Tower Hamlets. These include Bow Foodbank, a Tower Hamlets-based charity with two food banks in Bow and Bethnal Green, respectively. You don't need a referral or show ID to use either — simply register during your first visit. Bow Foodbank has an open door policy; it's there to help those who may not meet the criteria for other food banks that have referral systems in place. Here, though, clients are limited to 12 visits each.
This webpage has further resources for emergency food and hot meals available in the borough.
Giving help: Most of the food banks linked above have options for donating money or food, or for volunteering your time.
Getting help: One food bank in Waltham Forest is Eat or Heat, which aims to prevent people from having to choose between food and warmth by providing three days worth of emergency food. Speak to your GP, social housing officer, or another professional for a referral to qualify.
Another is the Rukhsana Khan Foundation, the area's first-ever food bank — the website is more directed at donors than those seeking help, but there's a contact form and a telephone number to try. A third option is PL84U-AL SUFFA in Leytonstone which accepts both walk-ins and referrals.
Giving help: All three of the food banks linked above have options for donating either your time, cash, or food.
Getting help: Wandsworth Foodbank is spread across seven locations all around the borough. It's supported by The Trussell Trust and requires users to get a referral from a local agency before using it (find out more about that here).
Giving help: Click here to support Wandsworth Foodbank.
Getting help: Westminster Foodbank, based at Westminster Chapel, is part of the nationwide network overseen by the Trussell Trust, so you'll need to get a referral from a local agency in order to use it. Another option in the area is North Paddington Food Bank, which supplies supermarket food vouchers to those in need. To get these, you'll need to apply to the Hardship Fund — you may self-refer, or a referral partner can do so on your behalf.
Giving help: Donate to North Paddington Food Bank here.
Know any food banks we've missed? Get in touch!