Five things you need to know about food banks

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We asked food banking partners around the world what they wanted you to know. Here’s what they said.

By Marino Eccher

When you fill up a grocery bag to donate to a food bank, what should go in it? What happens after you drop it off? And where does it make a difference?

With the holidays around the corner and giving on the mind, we asked food banks around the world to weigh in on what people should know about food bank donations – and what people might not think about. Here’s what they told us:

Need is everywhere
 

About 795 million people worldwide face hunger, according to the World Food Programme – one in nine people on earth. And hunger knows no borders, with serious challenges in high- and low-income nations alike. In India, one in six people go hungry; in the United States; it’s about one in eight, including one in six children.

There’s enough food – but much of it goes unused
 

“There is enough food to feed the world’s hungry,” said Natascha Hinsch, executive director of the Food Banking Network of Argentina, “but more than one third of food produced is wasted.” Most of that ends up in landfills, where it produces greenhouse gasses.

Food banking “is a proven solution,” she said. “Food banks rescue perfectly edible food before it is discarded.”

What you give matters
 

It’s not just about food – it’s about healthy food. That means donating things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins.

In the Feeding America network, for instance, 68 percent of the food collected is categorized as healthy – with a goal of bringing in enough fruits and vegetables to serve 1.7 billion meals a year through produce by 2025.

Food banks do heavy lifting
 

When you give, your job might be done. Theirs isn’t.

They’re in the logistics business of getting meals across their networks to people who need it. The 300 food banks of the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) alone provide the equivalent of 2.9 million meals per day. In some regions, freight alone can take up 25 percent of a food banking network’s expenses.

That expertise also gives food banks a long reach. “Food banks with efficient supply chain management capabilities and a strong network of partners can supplement government programs to efficiently deliver food to the most needy and unreached,” said Vandana Singh, chief executive of the Food Security Foundation India.

The goals go beyond food
 

Food banks have a presence in the community that “provides much more than meals,” said Patrick Alix, general secretary of FEBA. “With their volunteers and their partner organizations, they bring hope to people in need and thus deliver social cohesion.”

In fact, giving is only the start. “Although giving is very important, much, much more important is our commitment to human welfare,” said Hinsch of the Argentina network. “This commitment will surely bring about not only sporadic giving, but long term giving and involvement in innovative solutions to different social problems.”

Cargill supports 18 national food banks around the world through funding, logistics, volunteers and more. Learn more about food security and food waste here.
 

Published: Nov. 11, 2016

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