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How to use a food bank and food bank vouchers when struggling

I’ve transported numerous crates to the Trussell Trust Norwich Food Bank over the years. Located on Ivy Road, in an industrial estate on the outskirts of the city centre. The Norwich Food Bank, which is run by the charity “The Trussell Trust”, serves an important role for those that require food aid during the year. It is an essential service that helps to support those not only during the winter when they see most donations and need, but also during times of trouble such as the recent pandemic.

This article serves to give me information about what a food bank is and how they work in and around Norwich.

How do Food banks like the Norwich Food Bank work?

Food Banks are setup to work on the kind donations of food and products donated from the public and businesses. They aim to provide free products to those in receipt of certain benefits, with food vouchers, or simply in need. This “need” can appear in any family, at any point. In a average family (those with a mother, father and one or two children) both parents could, any point, be made redundant. Events like this can have a huge impact on that family’s ability to not only maintain a home, but also feed themselves.

This is why charities like the Norwich food bank and Trussell Trust are so essential to those in need. Food vouchers can be given to families who need support by people such as health visitors social workers for crisis care team is in the community. These food bank vouchers can entitle people to receive enough food for around 3 days from the food banks.

It should be mentioned that food banks just provide food. They also provide all manner of household products such as kitchen roll, toilet roll, toiletries and even sanitary items.

Can you just turn up at a Food Bank?

Whilst I’m sure the staff would be incredibly helpful should you just turn up at the door. They do have to operate under a set system. Most of them will work on a referral scheme like that mentioned in the previous section. This means that if you feel you will need help, you will need to speak to the council or Citizens Advice. They will point you in the right direction, particularly if you are a low income household.

There variety of Norwich food banks, some national and some independent and local. Some of the more independent and local food banks in Norwich will allow you to visit and enquire without referral.

How do I get a Food Bank voucher?

the process of getting a foodbank voucher should be reasonably simple. First of all, get in touch with your nearest food bank you can do this by email telephone or whatever means you feel fit. Explain clearly your situation and above all else please be honest. Remember, Food banks may have to prioritise those in more need when times are hard or stocks are low.

The most common companies for institutions that you can get foodbank voucher referrals from are:

  1. Your local education authority support line or children’s centres.
  2. The housing association in your county or city.
  3. General advice services such as citizens advice or community charities.
  4. Mental health and social service teams

As mentioned, please be as honest as you can about your situation and don’t be too proud to say things exactly as they are. Often, there may be additional advice or services available to you that can be signposted.

Once you have your food voucher you can pop along to your local Norwich food bank. The volunteers who work there will assess your needs again and provide a food parcel suitable for a minimum of 3 days. They will also aim to support you in addressing the issues that lead to you needing support from the food bank. Also be clear at this point if you have any dietary requirements.

What is in a food bank food parcel?

Again, the parcels are designed to support the person referred for a minimum of 3 days. They should seek to provide a nutritionally balanced assortment of non-perishable canned and dried foods that have been donated from the client public and businesses. The sorts of items that you may find included in a typical food parcel could be:

  • Jars of tea and coffee
  • tinned vegetables
  • tinned meat
  • tinned pies
  • dried pasta, lentils and pulses
  • pasta sauces and packet soups
  • cereals and biscuits
  • toilet rolls
  • kitchen rolls
  • sanitary items
  • toothpaste
  • deodorant
  • shampoo and soap
  • Plus a large range of long life products such as UHT milk and cartons of fruit juice

How can I get food with no money?

all of the steps and advice above is available to you if you are struggling with funds for food. It’s also worth noting that if you’re in receipt of certain benefits or from a separated family there is a chance that you are entitled to free school meals and FSM vouchers for your children. As somebody who works in education, I can assure you that there is no stigma attached to taking advantage of these discounts. They are there to support you. If you believe you’re entitled let your school office or secretary know as soon as possible and they will get you signed up and registered. This could save you a huge amount on your children’s meals during the course of a week.

It may be that your situation is that you’ve lost your job and are now unable to provide as easily for your family. If this is the case the Job Centre is another one of the services that can provide a referral for food vouchers. In some cases they may even issue an advance into your account in order to buy food yourself.

How can I make my meals more affordable?

whether you have a food bank food parcel or are simply working through your cupboards stores, there are loads of recipes out there. These budget recipes are great for putting into a family meal planner to make the most of the resources you have in your food bank parcels.

I have a few on this website such as slow cook chilli con carne, budget mince pies, frugal vegan shakshuka and even a slow cook tikka masala. Slow cooker recipes are great as they make a cheaper cuts of meat taste even better. You can also help them out with veg and pulses from tins. The Tesco food love stories website is also brilliant for seeking out ingredients at a reasonable price for meals.

Do food banks deliver?

A number of food banks in the UK may deliver. However, you need to phone and have a discussion with them as usually this service is reserved for disabled or elderly people.

Where is my nearest food bank?

Below is a list of some of the food banks in and around Norwich and Norfolk. It is worth noting however that some of these run across the whole of the UK so will be available in other areas also. The top two contacts are listed below and then a general list of the smaller setups around Norwich are further down.

The Trussell Trust Food Bank, Charity, Norwich 01603 251733
Foodcycle Foodbank, Charity, Norwich Market Place 020 7729 2775

Other potential locations:

  1. St Elizabeth’s Church, Cadge Road, NR5 8DG (Mondays)
  2. Witard Road Baptist Church, Witard Road, NR7 9XG (Mondays)
  3. Mile Cross Methodist Church, Aylsham Road, NR3 2RU (Some Thursdays)
  4. Norwich Baptist Church, Duke Street, NR3 3AP (Thursdays)
  5. Alive! Church, Nelson Street, NR2 2DR (Thursdays)
  6. Wymondham Baptist Church, Queen Street, NR18 0AY (Fridays)
  7. Oak Grove Community Centre, 70 Catton Grove Road, NR3 3NT (Tuesdays)
  8. St. Stephens Church, Rampant Horse Street, NR2 1QP (Saturdays)


  1. Great advice here!!! lots of tips that I wouldn’t have know before! thanks!

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