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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cash First?

IFAN calls for governments and national and local partnerships to prioritise a cash first approach to food insecurity. Charitable food aid provides a stop gap measure and cannot address the root causes of poverty driving food bank use. A cash first approach to food insecurity prioritises raising people's incomes over food bank referrals. Find out more about how IFAN supports a cash first approach here.

Where is my nearest food bank?

You can use our members map to find local IFAN member organisations including 550 independent food banks. You can request information on independent food banks in your local area by writing to The Trussell Trust and Salvation Army also run food banks. Find out more about independent food banks here. 

How many food banks are there in the UK?

IFAN has identified at least 1,172 independent food banks operating across the UK including those run by multiple faith groups. This is in addition to over 1,300 Trussell Trust food banks as well as hundreds of food banks run by schools, universities, hospitals and the Salvation Army. There are also thousands of other charitable food aid providers running across the country including food pantries, social supermarkets, and soup kitchens. Find out more here.

Are independent food banks closed on bank holidays?

Food banks do not operate in the same way as shops or essential government services. Depending on the organisation, food banks are usually open at specific times on specific days during the week.


Many food banks rely on the help of volunteers, and it's possible that food banks will be closed on the holidays. Food banks often run extra sessions to compensate for bank holiday breaks and can operate out-of-hours lines to support people in need.


Food banks run the best service they can within their capacity, and have been struggling over the past few months to keep up with rising demand. Food banks often rely on financial, food and toiletry donations in order to continue to operate. This service should not be needed - everyone should have enough money to afford food for themselves. You can call on your MP to end the need for charitable food aid using this template.


Each of IFAN's member organisations are independently run. You can find out information specific to each organisation through our members map.

Do you need a referral to access an independent food bank?

IFAN member organisations operate independently and have their own policies as to how they are accessed. Some independent food banks, like Trussell Trust food banks, only accept referrals in order to be able to provide food support while others accept both referrals and self-referrals. You can find out information specific to each organisation through our members map

Do food banks provide infant formula?

IFAN member organisations operate independently and have their own policies as to the provision of infant formula. Some member organisations try to follow UNICEF guidance on the provision of infant formula. Many IFAN members will distribute vouchers to people needing infant formula so they can choose and buy this for themselves. IFAN members also sometimes buy infant formula on behalf of people needing food for their babies. IFAN advocates for a cash first response to food insecurity to ensure everyone has the income to choose and afford food for themselves and their babies.

How can I volunteer?

If you'd like to volunteer with an IFAN member organisation you can make contact directly through our members' map or you can write to We'd ask all volunteers to write to their local MP urging action to reduce the need for charitable food aid.

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