Food Banks provide an essential link between the food supply chain and the underprivileged. Food Banks are esentially not-for-profit distribution organizations that serve the community. They encourage food businesses to commit to reducing food waste and also redirecting their surplus to feed those in need. The food banks acquire donated surplus food products including grains and packaged food as well as funds for sponsored mid day meals or breakfasts and make them available to people who are hungry or lack nutritional food.
Food Banks distribute the food products and meals through a network of community based organizations or NGOs that run institutional feeding programs. These include feeding programs at schools for underprivileged children, homeless shelters, old age homes, after-school programs, orphanages, charitable hospitals and other programs for the needy.
Food banking is an effective approach in alleviating hunger because Food Banks are:
- Bridging the Gap – Food banks meet the needs of the hungry by efficiently redistributing the food already available in the country.
- Scalable – Food Banks can start at the local community level, and can expand their network to feed a larger population over time.
- Adaptable – Food Banks can operate in different ways to suit different regional cultures and economies.
- Non-competitive – Food Banking does not interfere with the commercial channels of food distribution.
- Prevent Food Wastage – Surplus food including grains and packaged food, from the shelves and warehouses of food businesses and fresh produce, which would have otherwise been wasted is effectively distributed by Foodbanks among those in need.
Integrated Development approach
Food distribution is the central activity of a Food Bank. However to make a sustainable impact, Food banks can also implement other initiatives to meet the various needs of the community. Food Banks can thus adopt an integrated development approach and address issues of malnutrition, nutritional awareness, safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, education and skill building to help break the cycle of poverty.
Apart from providing access to nutritious food, a Food Bank as a distribution network can offer a wide range of ancillary programs to its beneficiaries, depending on the socio-economic structure of the communities and their needs. It can help bridge gaps and launch services in response to particular needs of the community such as skills training, disaster response, clothing distribution, enabling behaviour change, etc in association with other NGOs. As the Food Bank has a significant presence in the community, it can be used as a model to scale such programs through partner NGOs to provide better outreach, effective implementation and also resource development to address community's needs.
Following are some of the strategies adopted by Food Banks to address hunger and malnutrition and provide ancillary services:-
- Malnutrition: Malnutrition is a broad term specifying the conditions that hinders good health, caused by inadequate or unbalanced food intake or from poor absorption of food consumed. The primary focus of Food Banks is to adopt different measures to address the issues of malnutrition and nutritional awareness.
- Education on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Component: Since Food Banks focus on providing food to the hungry, educating people - especially young children on water, sanitation and hygiene issues can also be simultaneously undertaken.
- Partner with NGOs for holistic development: If Food Banks and NGOs working in areas of education, skills training, behaviour change, hygiene, etc. come together, the model that will emerge is much more sustainable and holistic for the beneficiaries. This enables the poor to come out of the vicious cycle and become self-sustained and independent.
- Clothing Distribution: Food banks can operate clothing banks as well. Clothing is acquired in much the same way as food and grocery products, and donors make it available for many of the same reasons as food.
- Disaster Response: At times of disaster, food is the basic need. Food banks already have storage spaces and a well-established network of distribution. Therefore, they are well equipped for being the first to respond immediately. Most importantly, they have a day-to-day understanding of the needs of the community in which they operate, and a network of regular communications with these entities is most likely to play a great role in the response effort – with the government, the private sector, and among NGOs. Food Banks can contribute towards the development of local and national response plans so that when disaster strikes, the food bank’s role is already defined and all the parties are prepared to collaborate appropriately.