BankTheFood: The app helping to tackle food bank supply issues

BankTheFood links food banks to donors and helps ensure that they have items they need, when they need them.

In an unfortunate world where food banks are more important than ever, while the kindness of people’s donations shine through, many banks encounter prominent issues of stocking masses of one item and not enough of another.

That’s where the BankTheFood app comes in.

Launched in lockdown last year and now a registered charity, BankTheFood remains in constant contact with local food banks who sign up so their volunteers can pinpoint what items they are in desperate need of and what items they have too much of. 

Sending a helpful ‘ping’ to donors when they go shopping, once a requested item has been purchased, a donor ‘ticks off’ through the app and makes the process easier for the volunteers who divide stock in food banks.

The app’s co-founder, Emma Spring, 49, a former school’s advisor, said she wanted to “try and help give back” after seeing “so many children suffering because of food poverty”.

“They [children] would come to school in the morning and not have had any breakfast and it’s just really heart-breaking. 

“In our society it’s awful that this is even happening so this seemed like such a simple solution to that problem, that I was all in,” Emma told Oh My Goodness. 

Co-founder Emma Spring (pictured) wanted to give back after seeing “so many children suffering with food poverty”. (BankTheFood)

First piloted in Southend food bank last year, the app has been a quick success and now has nearly 10,000 users across the UK. 

It has also seen almost 100 food banks sign up in areas from the Isle of Skye, all the way down to Cornwall.

Run entirely by volunteers, the BankTheFood team have also built a desktop version for one food bank but Emma stresses they “just want it to work for everybody.”

“Food bank workers have a gargantuan task having to sort out their stock. People want to donate, there’s that innate generosity in us but we’re very busy people. 

“Getting that ping as you arrive in the supermarket makes a difference. If you didn’t have that as you arrive, at the end, you see the donation box and you plop in what you’ve got in your basket, but it might be that they’ve got loads of pasta. 

“Hopefully it helps that supply and demand problem,” Emma said.

Natasha Copus, the manager of Southend food bank, the first food bank to use the app, described it as “brilliant”.

Natasha Copus (left) manager of Southend food bank described the app as “brilliant”. (BankTheFood)

The charity recently launched a #WasteNot campaign, coinciding with data that found a staggering 9.52 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK*.

Encouraging people to understand more of what they were buying and how important donations are for the 3.5 million people across the UK* that need support from food banks, Emma said it “helped create awareness”.

However, the former schools advisor asserts that BankTheFood do not want to stop there, with plans for an extension on the app where food banks can communicate the logistical support they need such as van help, warehouse space and volunteer sign ups, describing it as a “one stop shop.”

The app last year currently has nearly 10,000 users and regularly has more food banks signing up. (BankTheFood)

But the charity’s main aim is to have more food banks sign up via the app.

“The ideal is, get as many people as we can on the app because the more people that we have using the app and the more food banks that we sign up, the more likely we are that we’re going to be helping them with their food needs.

“I think people can see it as a really simple solution to a problem. If people want to donate, then why wouldn’t you download the app,” Emma added.

You can learn more about the amazing app and how to download it on the BankTheFood website.

* The UK was responsible for 9.52 million tonnes of food waste in 2018, according to a study by the sustainable charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)

* Food and You 2 Wave 2 report published showed one in 12 (7%) people aged 16 and over in England, Wales and Northern Ireland had used a food bank in the previous year – representing almost three and a half million people.

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