Are food drives really effective

What is a food bank? Learn more about gardening for food banks

Avid gardeners can be blessed with an abundance of products in any growing season. Sure, friends and family will eagerly accept some of the excess, but you may still have more than you can eat yourself. This is where the grocery bank comes in.

You can donate vegetables to a food bank or even grow them specifically. Millions of people in this country are struggling to get adequate food. Gardening for food banks can meet this need. How do food banks work and what types of food bank vegetables are most in demand? Read on to find out more.

What is a food bank?

A food bank is a non-profit organization that stores, packs, collects, and distributes food and other items to those in need. Food banks are not to be confused with a pantry or a grocery cabinet.

A grocery bank is usually a larger organization than a pantry or closet. Food banks do not actively distribute food to those in need. Instead, they supply the local pantries, cupboards or menu programs with groceries.

How do food banks work?

While there are other food banks, Feeding America is the largest, operating 200 food banks serving 60,000 food pantries nationwide. All food banks receive donated food from manufacturers, retailers, producers, packagers, and shippers of food, as well as government agencies.

The donated food is then distributed to pantries or non-profit food providers and given or served either free of charge or at greatly reduced costs. One of the key elements of any food bank is that there are few, if any, paid employees. The work of a food bank is almost entirely done by volunteers.

Gardening for food banks

If you want to grow vegetables for a food bank, you should contact the food bank right before planting. Every food bank has different needs, so it is best to find out exactly what they are looking for. For example, you already have a permanent potato dispenser and are no longer interested. You may have a more pressing need for fresh greens.

Organizations have already been set up in some cities to help gardeners grow vegetables from food banks. For example, in Seattle, Solid Ground's Lettuce Link connects people to donation locations by providing a table of donation locations, times, and preferred vegetables.

Some food banks don't accept personally grown produce, but that doesn't mean they don't all. Keep looking until you find a grocery bank open for personal garden donations.

Gardening for food banks can be a great way to use up that overload of tomatoes and can even be useful, for example if a gardener dedicates part or all of the garden property as a donation garden or specifically to fight hunger. Even if you don't have a garden of your own, you can volunteer at any of the 700+ local and national USDA public gardens, most of which donate products to food banks.


A food bank is a non-profit organization that collects food and distributes it to hunger relief charities. Food banks act as food storage and distribution depots for smaller frontline agencies and typically don't distribute food directly to people struggling with hunger.

Food banks in the United States vary widely - from small businesses serving people in large rural areas to very large facilities that store and distribute millions of pounds of food each year, and everything in between. A variety of factors affect the way food banks operate, from the size of the facility to the number of employees. What all food banks have in common, however, is that they rely on donors and volunteers in their daily work. Watch This Video To See How Feeding America Works ›


Donate groceries to a food bank? Consider cash instead of canned food

With 42 million people in the US at risk of starvation from the pandemic, donating your additional or purchased dry and canned goods through a grocery campaign seems like the best way to help your neighbors' needs. The best way to support your local food bank is to donate money.

Here are four reasons why food donations are helping more families in need:

We can turn a donated dollar into more meals

Instead of paying retail prices, our network of food banks works with major manufacturers, retailers and farmers to secure healthy food. So if you donate a dollar, you can put more meals on the family table than if you donated food that you bought in the store.

Donations build healthier communities

Canned foods and dry foods like pasta and rice are an integral part of our food banks and pantries - but no one can lead a healthy life on non-perishable foods alone. Feeding people is not just about providing food; it is also about providing healthy food to all of our communities. We are working to ensure that our network food banks and pantries are filled with more fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, and lean protein. These perishable items cannot be donated directly through food drives, but they are vital to a healthy life.

We use funds to combat food waste

Over £ 72 billion of perfectly good food is wasted every year. By working directly with farmers, we help ensure that healthy fruit and vegetables that do not end up in the grocery store end up on the plates of families in need and not in a landfill. When you support our food rescue program, you are not only contributing to families in need, but also creating a more sustainable world.

Not all food banks have the capacity for large donations of food

Always contact your local food bank before you start fundraising. Collecting and receiving donations for food drives can create unforeseen problems and costs for the food bank that you are trying to help. Your local food bank can help you understand what types of food it is safe to accept and when and what food is most needed.

Still want to donate to your local food bank? Host a virtual food drive.

Your community can continue to work together to help starving families by starting its own fundraiser for Feeding America. Whether you want to dedicate your birthday to ending hunger or have your own creative donation idea, your fundraiser will bring people together and help even more people in need.


2. Promote recurring giving

One of the best ways to ensure the sustainability of your food bank is to run a monthly fundraising program.

When a donor sets up a recurring donation, they regularly give a set amount of money. Many people like to give monthly (the most common form), bimonthly, or annually, but they can give as often as they want - the process will be automated. Instead of inspiring a donor to donate multiple times, all you have to do is do so once and then keep the relationship going.

An online donation system that offers recurring donations can have a tremendous positive impact on the long-term financial sustainability of your food bank. It provides a steady stream of income and makes it easy for you to plan your activities.

Recurring donors are also more committed, giving more, and giving longer.

Place a prominent link on your recurring donation program on all of your email newsletters, share social media posts, and on your website to highlight recurring donors and the impact of their donations.

In the image below, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank is encouraging its website visitors to participate in their monthly fundraising program (and they have a matching donation, too)! And the Mississauga Food Bank shares the benefits of their monthly donation program.

Pro tip: Make sure donors can cancel their recurring subscription at any time and that they are aware of this


Missouri Food Pantries help customers grow their own produce

Bill McKelvey founded Grow Well Missouri on a five-year grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to help improve access to products - and the health benefits associated with growing it itself. Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media Hide label

Bill McKelvey founded Grow Well Missouri on a five-year grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to help improve access to products - and the health benefits associated with growing it itself.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

The salt

For the next food drive, go for the canned tuna, not the saltines

The salt

The Tucson Food Bank helps those in need grow their own food

One in six people in the United States struggles with hunger. Food pantries across the country are distributing groceries to help these people put meals on the table. But what if they could also teach pantry goers how to grow their own food?

Grow Well Missouri, a program that drives to pantries in central Missouri, is one of several food aid groups trying to do just that, distributing seeds and starter plants to low-income locals.

The group formed in Columbia, Missouri, on a recently damp spring morning. Four volunteers for Grow Well Missouri worked under a blue pop-up tent outside Central Pantry, repotting about 50 starter tomato plants in larger containers. They had a steady stream of visitors who came by and were curious about what was going on.

Volunteer Marie Paisley packed a tomato plant, a trowel, and literature on how to successfully grow the plant in a shopping bag. Then she passed it on to the pantry customers with helpful tips on caring for the plant.

"When you bring it home, you have to pour it thoroughly until the water runs out of the bottom of the container," she says.

Bill McKelvey founded Grow Well Missouri for a second year to provide better access to healthy food.

"It's probably the best quality food you can get, isn't it?" he says. "You grew it yourself, you pick it and you eat it."

When people visit pantries, they don't always find the healthiest choices - although many food banks are working to change that. And fresh produce can be very hard to come by for people who rely on food banks.

"You know, a lot of what is obviously donated because it's kept longer is canned," says Livia Marques, a food and health program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "So in my opinion it is very important to have this access to products in different ways. It is clearly optimal to give people the opportunity to grow them themselves."

According to McKelvey, the program also seeks to provide more than just nutritious foods.

"I think gardening makes people happy and self-sufficient regardless of your income," he says.

Of the 158 program participants surveyed last year, almost 90 percent actually planted gardens. And more than 90 percent of gardeners say they have shared their products with friends and family. McKelvey says connecting people to their food also helps connect them to one another.

Kate Markie (left) and Debra Blakely, volunteers for Grow Well Missouri, are handing out seeds to grocery shoppers in Central Pantry in Columbia, Missouri, in hopes of encouraging them to start their own gardens. Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media Hide label

Kate Markie (left) and Debra Blakely, volunteers for Grow Well Missouri, are handing out seeds to grocery shoppers in Central Pantry in Columbia, Missouri, in hopes of encouraging them to start their own gardens.

Kristofor Husted / Harvest Public Media

Coresa Colony, who caught a tomato plant in Columbia, says she shares the experience with her son. They love growing and eating tomatoes, and she says a starter plant from Grow Well Missouri will allow them to incorporate more fruit into their diet.

McKelvey says more than half of the people who ingest plants or seeds from the group have some form of gardening experience. Many of these gardeners start with seeds that customers can also pick up in the pantry.

Just behind the bread shelf and halfway to the cooler are hundreds of packets of seeds on the table, along with instructions and tips on how to grow them. Pantry shoppers pick up seeds from volunteers like Debra Blakely for everything from carrots and spinach to melon and watermelon.

"When I did this a few weeks ago, we were selling flower seeds," says Blakely. "I saw their faces light up because they had already come over to pick up their vegetable seeds, but then they said, 'Oh, you have flower seeds today!' So yes, they'll come back. "

McKelvey says the ultimate goal is for people to come back every year and try new fruits and vegetables. This can help pantries build a more sustainable relationship with their customers and help customers continue to have access to fresh food and the health benefits that come with it.

"Much of the work we are doing now is really going to help us build a model of how other groups can do this project," says McKelvey.

At the end of the year, Grow Well Missouri will host workshops and training for other groups in the Midwest interested in starting their own version of the project. As we previously reported, other grocery banking projects in this direction include a community garden in a low-income neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona where customers can grow their own produce and raise chickens and bees.

This story is from Harvest Public Media, a public radio collaboration focused on agriculture and food production.


How Food Banks Work

When resources are scarce, making ends meet can be a challenge. Families in the United States are put under pressure on the one hand by high prices and dwindling jobs, dwindling benefits and a shrinking dollar. More and more are turning to a national network of grocery banks and free grocery stores for help.

The United States has more than 200 food banks serving more than 63,000 agencies that regularly provide meals or groceries to the public. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates these organizations distribute more than 2.5 billion pounds of food to the hungry each year. If the economy continues to stall, this may not be enough.

Hunger in the United States has been highest since 1994 when the USDA began keeping detailed records. Figures released by the US Census Bureau for 2009 show that 44 million people, or one in seven people, are on or below the poverty line. This is defined as pre-tax income of $ 10,830 or less for a single person and $ 22,050 for a family of four.

In the next few pages we look at how food banks work and where they get the food they bring to American tables from. We'll also discuss ways you can help help make mealtime a certainty for children and families in need.

Food banks are distribution facilities that store, repackage, and distribute food to affiliates and charities. You can get food from a variety of national and local sources. Although they rely heavily on excess food donated in large quantities, local food campaigns and individual donations are also important:

  • USDA commodities - Each year the USDA Food and Nutrition Service provides 1.9 billion pounds of food to stock a portion of the National School Lunch Program and provides food for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) , the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), the Food Distribution Program for Indian Reservations (FDPIR), and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), provide the food to state and local authorities for distribution through food banks or at feeding points such as soup kitchens and homeless shelters distributed.
  • Big donations - Food banks solicit and donate large donations from local and national businesses and nonprofits. Often times, these are surpluses from food manufacturers, retailers, and growers. This includes items such as unsold bread as well as production and production overruns.
  • Other donations - Local businesses, faith-based nonprofits, government resources, and sometimes other aging food banks also offer groceries. Donations also come from people like you through walk-ins or food drives where you shop, work or worship.

Now that we know what a food bank is and where the food comes from, let's take a look at how the food banks distribute the bounty.

Americans waste more than 96 billion pounds of food each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How do food banks distribute food?

Although local charities such as religious missions and soup kitchens sometimes receive donations directly from individuals or companies, they often turn to food banks as their primary source of nutritious staple foods.

Grocery banks can vary in their distribution methods, but usually support a list of affiliates and maintain a warehouse that is available for collection or delivery. Food banks typically receive food in bulk and repackage it for delivery. They have procedures in place similar to most sales-related companies, such as: B. an accounting department as well as warehouse and maintenance staff.

Member organizations must meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for food receipt. They must demonstrate that they provide free meals or groceries at their facilities, maintain an ongoing feeding program, and comply with state or federal tax or nonprofit guidelines. Affiliate organizations can include:

  • Faith groups such as missions, pantries, mosques, and synagogues
  • Soup kitchens
  • Group houses
  • Homeless shelters
  • Day care programs
  • Senior centers
  • Emergency canteens
  • Catering service to the home-bound
  • Job placement

Affiliates do not pay for groceries, but they are usually responsible for a processing or maintenance fee, which is a small fraction of the cost of the goods they receive. The amount of the maintenance fee varies from region to region and from one grocery bank to another.

Now let's look at a few ways you can help a grocery bank near you.

Feeding America, the largest hunger relief charity in the US with 200 food banks, estimates a $ 1 donation can provide enough food for seven meals (about 9 pounds of food).

What can you do to help your local food bank?

Food banks and nonprofits need money, food, and labor to operate. You can help by donating money to a national food bank like Feeding America, or by giving money to a regional food bank near you. Supporting companies that donate to food banks or run regular food promotions is another way to show your support for food-related charities.

Around the holidays, news clips of concerned citizens occupying the grocery lines in local soup kitchens or missions in the area are popular dishes, but the fact is that food banks need help year round. You also need talented people who can operate a forklift, keep accounting books, create a website, or perform strategic planning tasks. If you have special skills and are willing to volunteer, your unique contribution will help your local or regional free food distribution system operate more effectively.

If you can't volunteer your time and expertise, you can still do important work to help a local food bank. If there aren't any running food drives to work, worship, or gamble on, then you should start one. Some food banks make it easy to set up a food drive program by providing trash cans and even project kits with great ideas to get you started.

If you can't volunteer and don't have the time to start a grocery campaign, there are still many things you can do to help your food bank help others:

  • Discuss hunger with your family so that they can raise awareness among their friends.
  • Throw a party and after a hearty homemade meal, pick up a collection to help out hungry families.
  • Gather a box of emergency food for your family and keep it in a safe, dry place. While you're at it, put together a donation box.
  • Try to feed each family member on $ 4.45 a day. This is how much money the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program offers those in need for one day's worth of groceries. Discuss the results with your friends and colleagues. Start a blog about your experience to help spread the word about hunger in America.

Donate groceries to your local food bank as well. These articles are always in demand:

  • shelf-stable milk
  • Paper products
  • cleaning supplies
  • Juice boxes
  • peanut butter
  • Canned vegetables, fruits and tuna
  • Canned stews, soups (especially those that contain meat)
  • Muesli in boxes
  • oatmeal
  • Beans
  • Baby food
  • Baby food

Each year Feeding America provides food to more than 37 million Americans, including nearly 14 million children. They maintain a database of state and local listings for food banks across the country. To find a food bank near you, all you have to do is enter your zip code: Food Bank Locator.


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