Free food and food banks

There are places where you can get free or cheap food. You do not need a referral to use some local food banks and pantries.

You will need a referral to use Trussell Trust food banks.

If you need help getting food home, ask the pantry or food bank about deliveries.

Free and cheap food with no referral

There are independent food banks and other places you can use without a referral.

Soup kitchens serve ready to eat food without a referral.

Search for what's available locally from:

Some of these have no rules about who can access them. For others, you might need to:

  • bring something to prove who you are or where you live, like a utility bill
  • pay some money

Contact them to find out. You could also read these free guides:

Vouchers and local food pantries

Ask your local authority about:

  • their crisis fund and emergency supermarket vouchers
  • food partnerships, who can tell you what's available in your area
  • emergency payments that you do not have to pay back
  • local food pantries, community fridges and ‘social supermarkets’

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

Local welfare assistance finder (End Furniture Poverty)

Food sharing apps

You could also try these apps:


OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses to share surplus food.

Download the OLIO app

Too Good To Go

This anti-food waste app lets you rescue unsold food from businesses to save it from going to waste.

Too Good To Go

Warning Supporting your mental health

If struggling with food means you need support with your mental health, ask when you can.

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is important. Everyone manages their mental health differently.

There are many things you can try:

Managing your mental health

Find a food bank

You do not need money to get food from a food bank.

Some local community ‘pantries’, fridges’ and food banks do not require a referral. Ask if you’re not sure.

Independent food banks

Trussell Trust food banks and referrals

You need a referral for Trussell Trust food banks.

Trussell Trust food banks

The person referring you may give you a voucher. You should receive at least 3 days of food. Plan how you will get it home, particularly if it’s for you and your family.

You can ask for a referral from your:

Apply for free school meals (GOV.UK)

If you do not get a referral at first, ask if there’s somewhere else that could provide either:

  • a referral
  • food without a referral

Asking how to make a formal complaint may also help.

Food parcels and delivery

If you need to use a food bank but cannot travel, ask if they can deliver food parcels.

The Royal Voluntary Service has a transport service.

Find out about transport services in your area (Royal Voluntary Service)

Dietary requirements

Tell the food bank if you have any dietary requirements. They may be able to swap food items, depending on what they have. For example:

  • no meat or just some types of meat
  • gluten-free alternatives
  • dairy-free alternatives

If you have a child under 4 or are pregnant

You may be eligible for vouchers for milk and healthy foods through NHS Healthy Start.

To be eligible you need to:

How to apply (NHS Healthy Start)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 23/05/2023

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