The on-going rise in demand experienced by voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) providing emergency food aid has been described as a sign of a social and public health crisis in the UK (Loopstra, 2018; Lambie-Mumford, 2019), compounded since 2020 by the impact of (and responses to) Covid 19 (Power et al., 2020). In this article we adopted a social practice approach to understanding the work of food bank volunteering. We identify how ‘helping others’, ‘deploying coping strategies’ and ‘creating atmospheres’ are key specific (and connected) forms of shared social practice. Further, these practices are sometimes suffused by faith-based practice. The analysis offers insights into how such spaces of care and encounter (Williams et al., 2016; Cloke et al., 2017) function, considers the implications for these distinctive organisational forms (the growth of which has been subject to justified critique) and suggests avenues for future research.