Most food banks could do with more donations; many find they are deluged with baked beans while they go short of other groceries. But a new app is available that aims to help donors give just what's needed most.
The Foodbank app connects people with their nearest food bank and lists products using a 'traffic light' system. Red means that the food bank urgently needs supplies; amber means that supply is getting short and green indicates that they have plenty already.
People can also make financial donations through the app, and can volunteer to help out. They can even set an alarm for the time they usually go grocery shopping, reminding them to make a donation.
"There are now over 30 million smartphones in the UK. Smartphone apps are used to find out information, make online purchases, check the news, access social media etc," creator Dave Cates explains.
"We thought that an app would be useful for food banks as it allows them to communicate instantly with their supporters, updating them with urgent food requirements, asking for volunteers and sharing news."
The organisers are now looking for sponsors to help expand the app.
"We are also developing a desktop Facebook version of the app so supporters will be able to keep up-to-date with your food bank via Facebook."
The Canterbury food bank says it's seen a doubling of donations since it started taking part.
The Foodbank app runs on Apple's iOS and Android, and is available from Apple's App Store and on Google Play. While it's free for users, there's a charge for foodbanks wishing to take part, which covers set-up and training.
Food bank use is rocketing: there are now over 400 around the UK. A report last month in The Lancet showed that food bank use is up by 163% in the last year, in what it says is "an image reminiscent of the Great Depression in the 1930s."
According to the Trussell Trust, the largest provider of food banks in the UK, the number of people using food banks in the UK topped one million last year.
"Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today," says its foodbank director Adrian Curtis.
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