What can you do if you can’t afford to eat?

Just imagine not knowing where your next meal was coming from.

When I started my blog 11 years ago I was on maternity leave and since then earned money from my blog before going back to college and studying to work as a nursery practitioner.

Lockdown saw my husband lose his job and my hours being cut dramatically, so I joined a supermarket and have been there ever since. I have moved roles since I started and now am a Community Champion, which involves supporting community projects by providing information and access to fundraising opportunities and working with local charities to redistribute good quality surplus food to those who need it most.

Since starting this role, my eyes have been opened to all the help and support there is in local communities and with the cost of living rising and people struggling to make ends meet I want to share that knowledge.

There are two main food charities who work to redistribute good quality, surplus food: Trussell Trust and Fareshare. These have central hubs, which go onto support smaller, more local charities, often called larders or pantry’s, which can be found all over the country. Details and the locations of these can be found on their websites.

What is a Larder?

Unlike food banks which require a referral from professionals, such as social workers or GP’s, Larder’s are non-means tested and are available to everyone. Our local Fareshare larder, has a membership scheme which is aimed at helping people make their money go further by reducing food shopping bills.

Membership cost varies dependent on the size of your household (these are our local prices, your local ones may vary):

Single person – £2.50 per week
For this you are entitled to 10 products per week, plus some fruit and vegetables

2-person plus household – £3.50 per week
For this you are entitled to 15 products per week, plus some fruit and vegetables

4-person plus household – £5.00 per week
For this you are entitled to 25 products per week, plus some fruit and vegetables

The value of the total products given is way more than what you pay, although you are unable to specify what products you would like. These larders are also often supported by Citizens Advice, who can offer advice on financial support available, including help with fuel bills.

What is a Pantry

A Pantry is a membership food shop, focused on a particular neighbourhood and are open to all. Unlike Larder’s, Pantries stock an abundant and wide range of top-quality food including fresh fruit & veg, frozen and chilled food, meat and dairy products, and long-life tinned and packaged food which you can choose from the shelves, just like a shop.

What is a Food Bank?

Obviously, the previous options require you to have some available funds, but if there is another option if you have no money.

You need a food bank referral, which can be sought from a GP, Children’s Sure Start Centre, Job Centre, Health Visitor or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who will provide you with a food bank voucher for a letter which you’re able to exchange for food.

You’ll usually get enough food to last around 3 days and you may also get some toiletries and cleaning products, depending on what they’ve been donated and what you need.

Food Apps to download

There are also food-sharing apps available, which aim to reduce food waste by connecting those with surplus food to those who need or wish to consume such food. The food must be edible, however, it can be raw or cooked, sealed or open.


OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. The app is available on App Store and Google Play and works by browsing the listings available near you, request whatever takes your fancy and arrange a pick-up via private messaging.

Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go app allows restaurants, cafes and bakeries list leftover food that would otherwise be thrown away. Users can then browse the map for food near them and pick up a ‘magic bag’ for a fraction of the original retail cost. The app is available on App Store and Google Play and registration is free, plus users can specify their dietary requirements.


The Karma app is similar to Too Good To Go and enables users to rescue fresh food from restaurants, bakeries, cafes and even wholesalers that would have otherwise been thrown away.

The difference is that rather than getting a surprise selection, users can see exactly which meals are available to buy at each eaterie. Karma is available on Google Play and App Store

There are also community groups all over the country, who operate free food redistribution to their local community. These groups often advertise on facebook or neighbourly.com, although tend to be recommended by word of mouth.

For Bournemouth and Poole see Surplus 4 Dorset and Hope for Food.

Also see FoodCycle, a Community Meals and Cook and Collect services in towns and cities across the country, where volunteers turn surplus food into wholesome, nutritious meals.

My biggest piece of advise to anyone who is struggling, is please ask for help. Citizens Advice will have details of your local food charities and any financial support that you will be entitled to.


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