“The effectiveness of Food Bank Plus is clear; the more support made available to people during their first visit to a food bank, the shorter the period of time they are likely to be hungry.”
In the first Feeding Britain report, food banks across the UK were encouraged to build on their emergency response by embracing a Food Bank Plus model, in which they would host specialists trained to address the problems that have left people hungry.
In an ideal world the Food Bank Plus intervention would not be necessary, but for the time being it remains essential.
What is Food Bank Plus?
The Food Bank Plus model involves placing expert advisors into emergency food projects, so that they can help people to resolve the issues that led to them needing to seek food aid. As well as advice and advocacy to help resolve benefits issues, the advisors can also help to signpost people to other sources of support such as debt advice, budgeting support or employment support. This approach is proven to reduce the duration and severity of hunger experienced by those individuals who have been referred to a food bank, and means they no longer need to rely on food handouts.
Where are we piloting Food Bank Plus?
In 2015, Feeding Britain began piloting Food Bank Plus with our regional partners in the Feeding Birkenhead network. An advisor was commissioned from Involve Northwest, an independent advice charity, to support clients at the Wirral Food Bank and other community food projects in Birkenhead. More than 1,500 people received specialist support during this pilot exercise, with more than half having their crises resolved immediately and many others receiving the intensive longer term help they needed to re-establish their full benefit entitlement.
On the back of this work, and thanks to funding from the National Lottery Community Fund, Feeding Britain scaled up Food Bank Plus across the Feeding Bradford & Keighley, Feeding Derbyshire, and Feeding Leicester networks.
This has developed into the Pathways From Poverty programme. In the first 18 months of the project, more than 2,700 people received specialist support, with a total increase in annual household income of £500,000 and evidence of a reduced long-term need for food banks. Moreover, the project busted the limits that poverty all too often places on people’s lives, by addressing issues such as housing, schooling, and accessibility which had contributed to people’s vulnerability.