Picture a store room in a foodbank – there is a good chance that an image of shelves stacked with tinned goods, most likely soup or baked beans, springs to mind.
However, parcels will contain everything a household and family needs to get by for a short period of time.
That includes providing other essentials like toilet roll, toiletries, nappies, pet food and fresh fruit and vegetables.
But how do food banks ensure they have a range of items to supply while getting the word out for urgently needed items?
One mobile phone app, inspired by the idea of primary school children, is aiming to ensure charities in the north and north-east and across the UK have exactly what they need.
‘I had no idea they had mountains of baked beans’
When Southend Foodbank in Essex visited a local primary school in 2018 they told children they spent a large amount of time spreading the word about what they need.
The answer from the youngsters was simple – “Why don’t you build an app?”
Staff and volunteers thereafter were led to tech expert Dan Owen who has spent 30 years creating software to solve real world problems.
He said: “I had no idea that they had mountains of baked beans, but not enough food to provide a balanced diet for a family. Generous people were giving, but not the right stuff.”
BanktheFood is now a charity in its own right and has dozens of foodbanks signed up to notify people of its urgently-needed items as well as what it currently has a good supply of.
Emma Spring, who co-founded the charity with Mr Owen, explained the app was designed to held foodbanks quickly communicate what they need to locals.
She said: “It took the children to realise how hard it was to communicate real-time needs.
“It’s time consuming to update websites, notice boards in supermarkets and social media – it takes them away from their important job of distributing food.
“The app was a brilliant idea from the children and it has also been built to show all the local drop-off points.
“One thing we’ve found as well is drop-off points are traditionally as you go to the exits at supermarkets so people will tend to drop off something they can personally do without – instead of what the foodbank needs.
“If people are aware in advance then they’re more likely to drop off what the foodbank actually needs.
“It’s just a case of foodbanks registering with us and then they have the control over updating what they need at any given time, which can obviously vary across the country.”
The Press and Journal, Evening Express and Original 106 are raising awareness of the work and needs of foodbanks through the Big Christmas Food Appeal.
So just how can the BanktheFood app help people in our area?
How does Moray Food Plus use BanktheFood?
Elgin-based Moray Food Plus find it a vital tool for keeping supporters up-to-date for about their “urgent needs” as well as what it is “running low” and “well stocked” every week.
Items listed by the foodbank charity on BanktheFood are also rotated to encourage people to donate a range of items.
It also lists its 25 drop-off points across the region including its various points in Elgin as well as in smaller communities like Hopeman, Fochabers and Aberlour.
Gillian Pirie, the charity’s volunteer development officer, believes some people might be surprised about the items they hand out.
She said: “It’s not just food we distribute, we also include sanitary products, nappies and pet food – because animals are part of the household and need to eat too.
“We tailor it to the person’s needs, so we ask if they have dietary requirements and things like that here.
“One thing we try to do is try to introduce people to new flavours they maybe haven’t tried before and show them how they can prepare them themselves at home.
“So it’s not just a case of handing out a tin of soup, we want to provide some variety and educate too.”
North and north-east foodbanks on BanktheFood
- Integrate Scotland Storehouse, Gilcomston Park
- Aberdeen North, King’s Way, Bridge of Don
- Somebody Cares, Greenwell Road
Aberdeenshire and Moray
- Aberdeenshire North, St James’ Place, Inverurie
- Moray Food Plus, Elgin, Buckie, Forres, Keith
- Highland, Glebe Street, Inverness
- Lochaber, Airds Crossing, Fort William High Street