Fighting Hunger through FoodBanks
Hunger knows no borders. It exists in low-income as well as in high-income countries. Considerable progress has been made in eliminating global hunger but significant regional differences continue to persist. Foodbanks are not-for-profit organizations that have an important role to play in the elimination of food insecurity. Foodbanks partner with donors of food on one hand and charitable organizations that work directly within the community on the other hand. They serve as the critical link between the sources of food and those in need of food in the communities.
In 2019, about 750 million people worldwide were facing hunger, according to the UN World Food Programme, that is one in ten people in the world were exposed to food insecurity. The global Covid-19 pandemic has made the situation worse. According to the UN World Food Programme’s live Hunger Map, 880 million people across 92 countries do not have access to enough food.
What do food banks do?
The world produces enough food to feed everyone. But ironically, more than one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted and lands up in landfills where it ends up generating greenhouse gases.
Food banks intervene timely to prevent food from going waste and ensure distribution of safe food to the needy. Thus they play a critical role in not just promoting food security, but also saving the planet from the adverse environmental impact of food wastage.
An important role, therefore, for food banks is to encourage food businesses and fresh produce farms & markets to redirect their surplus to feed the needy. The donated surplus food products including grains and packaged food as well as funds for sponsored mid-day meals or breakfasts are made available to the hungry or to those who lack nutritional food.
Food banks are the crucial link between the food supply chain and the underprivileged. Logistics is at the core of their operations as they partner with different key players in the supply chain to get food across their networks to people who need it. The logistics expertise gives foodbanks a long reach. Their efficient supply chain management capabilities and a strong network of partners can effectively supplement government programs to efficiently deliver food to the most needy and unreached.
Food banks focus their efforts on reaching out to communities most affected by poverty and mal-nutrition. The network of community-based organizations or NGOs that run institutional feeding programs, are the backbone of the Foodbanks’ supply chain. They help distribute food products and meals at schools for underprivileged children, homeless shelters, old age homes, after-school programs, orphanages, charitable hospitals, and other programs for the needy.
Why Foodbanks are key to tackling hunger:
- Bridging the Gap – FoodBanks meet the needs of the hungry by efficiently redistributing the food already available in the country.
- Scalable – FoodBanks can start at the local community level, and can expand their network to feed a larger population over time.
- Adaptable – FoodBanks can operate in different ways to suit different regional cultures and economies.
- Non-competitive – FoodBanking 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.
Goals Beyond Food – Community Building
Foodbanks adopt an integrated development approach to food distribution for a sustainable impact. The strategy involves implementing targeted initiatives to help meet the various needs of the community and strengthen it. The wide-reaching efforts of Foodbanks, therefore, are directed towards addressing issues of malnutrition, nutritional awareness, safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, education, and skill-building. The aim of these consolidated activities is to help break the cycle of poverty.
A Foodbank as a distribution network is uniquely positioned to offer a wide range of ancillary programs to its beneficiaries. It can help bridge gaps with services to cater to particular needs of the community. These can range from skills training, disaster response, clothing distribution, to enabling behaviour change, etc., in association with other NGOs.
Given its significant presence in the community, a Foodbank can be used to scale social development programs through partner NGOs, providing better outreach, effective implementation and resource development to address the community's needs.
Role of Foodbanks in community building
1.Malnutrition: Inadequate or unbalanced food intake and poor absorption of food by the body lead to malnutrition. Foodbanks adopt different measures to address the issues of malnutrition and raise nutritional awareness.
2. Education on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Educating people, especially young children, on water, sanitation and hygiene issues is taken up by foodbanks alongside providing food.
3. Holistic community development with NGOs: Foodbanks and NGOs working in areas of education, skills training, behaviour change, hygiene, etc., can together be the model for sustainable and holistic development of the community. Their joint efforts enable the poor to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty and become self-sustained and independent.
4. Clothing Distribution: Foodbanks 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.
5. Disaster Response: At times of disaster, food is a basic need. Foodbanks with their vast storage spaces and a well-established network of distribution are well equipped to be the first respondents. With their intimate understanding of the community’s needs and their network at the grassroots, they can play a great role in the response effort along with the government, the private sector and NGOs. Foodbanks can contribute to the development of local and national response plans so that when a disaster strikes, the Foodbank’s role is well defined, and all the parties are prepared to collaborate appropriately.