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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Food matters

Visit a local food bank to find out about what they do and how you can help.

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You’ll need

  • A4 paper
  • Pens or pencils

Find a food bank

  • The Trussel Trust is a great place to start looking for a food bank near you. Around two thirds of food banks in the UK are part of their network; the remaining third are independent food banks. You can find details of independent food banks here.
  • You could also ask your local authority for help, search online, or see if anyone you know is already involved. Some people may find that food banks happen in their meeting place!
  • Once you’ve found a food bank that’s happy to have you, and you’ve agreed on a date and time, think about what else you may need to know. For example, could you volunteer and help out during the visit? Is their building accessible? Are there toilets?

Get ready to go

  1. The person leading the activity should ask if anyone knows what a food bank is. What do they do?

This is a great chance to address any misconceptions and set the right tone for the session.

  1. The person leading the activity should help everyone use the ‘Food bank facts’ to plan some questions to ask.
  2. The person leading the activity should make sure everyone understands the details of the visit, including what they’ll need to take with them (for example, a water bottle).

During your visit

  1. The person leading the activity should remind everyone to be respectful and listen to the people at the food bank. There might be guidance to keep everyone safe, or to make sure they don’t disrupt the food bank too much.
  2. Everyone should take the opportunity to learn about the food bank, help in any way they can, and ask any questions. They should make sure they ask about challenges and how they could help.
  3. Food banks are busy and important places, so everyone should thank the people who took the time to show them around and answer their questions.

Make a difference

  1. Everyone should think about what they learned about helping the food bank. What challenges were they facing? Did they need help with anything in particular?
  2. Everyone should explore how they could make a positive impact beyond their visit. What could they do to make a difference based on what the food bank needed help with?

For example, they could collect or sort donations, deliver them, or promote the food bank. Make sure to keep in touch to make sure your support is helping!

All sorts of people use food banks for lots of different reasons.

  • People may suddenly need to use a food bank because of an unexpected event, for example, a house fire, losing their job, an illness, or a natural disaster like a flood.
  • In 2019, the Trussel Trust found that one in seven people at their food banks are in employment (or live with someone who is).
  • Many people at Trussel Trust food banks are single parents or have a health issue – this doesn’t just put pressure on their budgets, but it makes it harder for them to access (and stay in) the workplace too.
  • The majority of people at Trussel Trust food banks are referred after experiencing an issue with the benefits system.
  • Why do people use the food bank you’re visiting?

Food banks promote their services differently.

  • They may use the internet, social media, posters, or newspaper adverts.
  • People may be referred by social workers, doctors, or the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
  • How does the food bank you’re visiting promote their services?

Some food banks are independent, some belong to wider initiatives.

  • For example, some are part of the Trussel Trust’s network.
  • Is the food bank you’re visiting part of a bigger organisation?

Food banks get food from lots of different places.

  • As well as donations, some food banks are linked to supermarkets or catering suppliers that donate food that would otherwise be wasted.
  • Where does the food bank you’re visiting get its food from?

Different food banks have different rules.

  • Some might not accept donations of fresh food or alcohol, for example.
  • Some food banks provide essential non-food items such as toiletries and menstrual products.
  • Some independent food banks may accept self-referrals, but in general, most food banks only accept referrals from professionals such as doctors, social workers, health visitors, and school staff.
  • What can’t people donate to the food bank you’re visiting? Do they provide non-food items?
  • How do people get to use the food bank? Can they self-refer?

Food banks offer a variety of services too.

  • Some food banks deliver food.
  • Some run holiday clubs, budgeting courses, or other projects to address the causes of poverty in their community. Others signpost to other organisations that offer services.
  • Does the food bank you’re visiting offer any other services?

Food banks face a variety of challenges.

  • If lots of people are affected by something at once (for example, a flood), food banks can come under strain as lots more people than usual need their help.
  • Food banks often see an inconsistent amount of donations throughout the year, for example, they might get loads at Christmas then not as many in the new year. This can mean they’re short of essentials at different times.
  • What challenges does the food bank you’re visiting face at different times of year? What are they struggling with right now?
  • How could you be most helpful to your local food bank at the moment?


This activity was all about helping the community. How do food banks support their local community? People might think about their role in providing essentials to anyone who needs them, as well as any other work they do and how they help prevent food waste. How do others in the community support food banks? For example, do supermarkets donate food? What support do food banks need to continue to make the world a better place?

This activity was all about caring. Was anyone surprised at any of the reasons that people might use food banks? How do people think it feels to use a food bank? They might think about it being a relief to have access to essentials, or feeling grateful. What could people do to help food bank users? They might think about donating if they can, joining campaigns by organisations like the Trussel Trust, or just spreading the word.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Adjust your action so it meets the food bank’s needs and is achievable for your group. The size of the group, and the time and resources you have, will affect what sort of help you’re able to give.

  • Remember that some young people may have experience of using food banks. Frame the experience positively by focusing on the help food banks provide – make sure that every discussion speaks about food bank users respectfully and avoid ‘othering’ food bank users (talking about them as a group who are totally different to the people in the discussion).
  • When you chat to the food bank, make sure you find out how to make your visit accessible for everyone in your group. You may want to think about getting to the food bank, the accessibility of buildings, and accessible toilets, as well as anything that might be challenging for people with sensory differences. Work with the food bank, young people, and their parents or carers to figure out how to make the visit work.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Many people who use food banks are affected by homelessness. We’ve partnered with Crisis and Simon Community NI to develop activities that help young people understand the factors that contribute to homelessness, and how they can help end the problem for good. Why not work towards your Community Impact Staged Activity Badge by trying some?

Anyone who enjoyed this visit may want to work towards another badge that focuses on making a difference, whether it’s local, national, or international. The Scouts Global Issues Activity Badge, or Scouts Local Knowledge Activity Badge could be the perfect place to start.

If people have lots of different good ideas for ways to make a difference, they could split into task teams led by young people.