What Is a Food Bank?
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Posted on 09 Aug 2016 23:15

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A food bank is an organization which collects, stores, packs, and distributes food and other needed items to people who need it, whether they cannot afford the food they need or are unable to get to a grocery store. However, there is much ambiguity in defining a 'food bank' as opposed to a food pantry or neighborhood food closet. Many smaller food charities who distribute food directly to the public may call themselves a food bank when they are more a food pantry.

The primary different between a large food bank and a smaller food pantry or closet at the local level, then, is that the food bank collects food, warehouses it, and distributes it to other charities which then provide the food to the public. A food bank may provide food to a food pantry. Although definitions and operations vary, most large-scale central food banks do not give out food directly to the public, or only do so on a limited basis.

Food banks can provide food to any organization that helps to feed the public, whether or not food is the main aim of the charity or only a part of it. Shelters and soup kitchens may also get much of their food from a central food bank.

Food banks may be formal arrangements run by larger nonprofit organizations, or by community-based charitable operations such as churches. Food banks are not usually run by governments but are often subsidized by them.


food-bank-shipping-distribution-area.jpg

The recieving and distribution area of Community Food Bank
of New Jersey.

Image by USDA via FlickrImage Credit

food-bank-shipping-distribution-area.jpg

The recieving and distribution area of Community Food Bank
of New Jersey.

Image by USDA via FlickrImage Credit



The Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA administers Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). This program purchases food and makes it available for state agencies of the CSFP, along with funding for administrative costs. The state agencies then distribute the food to local organizations, including food banks.


food-bank-shelves.jpg

The same food bank from the image above, Community Food Bank
of New Jersey, keeps shelves stocked with food items so that orerators from
community food relief organizations, such as soup kitchens and food pantries,
can 'shop' for items to bring back to their agencies for distribution to the
public or use in meals

Image by USDA via FlickrImage Credit

food-bank-shelves.jpg

The same food bank from the image above, Community Food Bank
of New Jersey, keeps shelves stocked with food items so that orerators from
community food relief organizations, such as soup kitchens and food pantries,
can 'shop' for items to bring back to their agencies for distribution to the
public or use in meals

Image by USDA via FlickrImage Credit



The largest centralized food bank organization in America is Feeding America, which runs a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries, reaching all 50 states and virtually ever community. Feeding America receives donations from national food manufacturers, retailers, shippers, packers, growers, and government agencies and distributes this food its member food banks, which in turn distribute the food to food pantries and local meal programs. Most food banks have very few paid employees. Most of the daily work is done by volunteers. You can find out more at FeedingAmerica.org

© 2016 by Eric Troy and CulinaryLore. All Rights Reserved. Please contact for permissions.