How Many Food Banks Are There?
Hunger and food insecurity are stark realities experienced not only in the U.S. but the rest of the world. Food banks were established to address these problems by distributing donated and purchased food and groceries to underserved families and communities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, about 35 million people in the country experienced hunger. This number increased to a staggering 45 million during the pandemic, and an estimate of at least 60 million people resorted to food banks, food pantries, and other food assistance initiatives in 2020.
The health and economic crisis has left people with no choice but to rely on the charitable food sector, so it’s important now more than ever to bolster food assistance programs in the U.S. and beyond. In this article, I talk about how many food banks are making a collective effort to end hunger, one locality at a time.
Hunger-Relief Agencies Here and Abroad
Feeding America: Strengthening Pathways out of Hunger
In the U.S., Feeding America is the largest network of food banks dedicated to alleviating hunger in the country. The organization operates 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries nationwide. In addition, they have 77 partner distribution organizations.
Feeding America helps families meet their basic nutritional needs at the federal and state levels. However, they also want to provide holistic support that addresses housing, employment, and healthcare because these issues are intertwined with hunger. Feeding America’s mandates are the following:
- Distributing food to children, the elderly, and families
- Implementing community-specific programs that are responsive to the ever-changing needs of people
- Implementing programs that help families have a healthy relationship between food and wellness
- Implementing programs that help households identify and maintain food-related solutions to keep children healthy
- Helping households create and stick to a food budget or find government services
How It Works
Feeding America outlines how their network of food banks operate:
- Collecting food donations
- Moving food to communities
- Distributing food to neighbors
- Ending hunger for good
Meeting Unprecedented Demand
Feeding America is not alone in the fight against hunger. In fact, 53 food banks operate outside of Feeding America. These independent food banks are considerably smaller in size, but their impact is still significant. See a comprehensive list here. All in all, Food Bank News estimates that there are around 371 organizations across the U.S. dealing with food acquisition and redistribution.
On a global scale, the Global Food Banking Network (GFN) and the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) are among the frontrunners in solving food insecurity. Together with Feeding America, these three organizations redirected 3.75 million metric tons of healthy surplus food from landfills to more than 66.5 million people in 2019 worldwide.
GFN reported that it has 943 members across Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia serving 9.6 million in 2018 alone. These member food banks were said to have recovered over 500 million kilograms of food and grocery items during the same year.
Meanwhile, FEBA has 388 food banks from 24 countries, delivering more than 4.1 million tons of food daily to 8.1 million people.
Food Bank vs Food Pantry
Sometimes, people are confused about the difference between a food bank and a food pantry. Simply put, a food pantry is a distribution centre that caters to local areas and communities. It is an individual site that functions much like a grocery store. On the other hand, a food bank is usually a larger facility that receives and stores millions of pounds of food supplies. Food banks redistribute these items to their partner organizations and food pantries.
Make a Difference Today
Since food banks are non-profit organizations, they cannot continue their work without the support of generous donors and sponsors. Being a volunteer at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, I have personally witnessed the positive impact of fighting hunger to enhance people’s quality of life. It’s a truly fulfilling and heart-warming experience to be able to help put food on the table.
If you want to be part of something bigger than yourself, you can start by donating to Feeding America. Each dollar goes to at least 10 meals that will benefit families in need through our local food pantries. Help end hunger today.
Find Your Local Food Bank
If you need food and grocery aid, connect with your local food bank to stay updated about upcoming free food distributions or to apply for a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps).
Learn More About My Work
Curious about my work as a philanthropist? Check out my website for more information so you can feel inspired to create your own legacy. You may also contact me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you.