Cost of living support Food support

Food banks and government schemes can help provide healthy meals for you and your family.

Food bank volunteers preparing food parcels

Food banks

Your local food bank can provide short-term emergency support if you can't afford food. They also offer debt advice, benefits guidance and mental health support to help you through the problems you're facing.

To get help from a food bank you need to be referred by a professional. This can be a doctor, health visitor, support worker, or an advice agency like Citizens Advice.

If you're not sure who to ask for a referral, you can call the Help through Hardship helpline on 0808 208 2138. A trained Citizens Advice adviser will discuss your situation. If you're eligible, they'll refer you to your local food bank. They'll also give you advice on accessing benefits and grants to increase your income.

Food support from the government

Free school meals

Free school meals provide a healthy, balanced diet for your child.

If your child is in reception, year 1, or year 2 at a government-funded school, they are eligible for free school meals.

If your child is in year 3 or above, they may be eligible for free school meals if you receive benefits. Visit GOV.UK to find out if your child is eligible and apply.

Holiday activities and food programme

If your children receive free school meals, they are also eligible for free activities and food during the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays.  Contact your local council for more details about this programme.

National School Breakfast Programme

Schools participating in the National School Breakfast Programme receive a 75% subsidy from the Department for Education to provide pupils with a healthy breakfast.

Contact your school to find out if they have signed up for this scheme.

Healthy Start scheme

If you’re more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, you may be able to get help to buy:

  • healthy food
  • milk
  • formula milk
  • vitamins

Visit the NHS Healthy Start website to find out if you're eligible.

Struggling to pay your bills?

You could be eligible for financial support from the government, your local council, your energy provider, and charitable organisations.

A woman using her laptop, while a man and young child are in the kitchen behind her