A food bank is defined as is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that solicits, stores, and distributes sufficient food to their defined service area.
Food banks may have some programs that distribute food directly to individuals and families, especially during emergencies like COVID-19. However, the primary function of a food bank is to partner with other agencies such as churches, senior centers, and schools to ensure an adequate flow of food throughout the communities they serve.
A food bank develops a network of these pantries and soup kitchens to increase access to food by meeting people in the communities and places they already are, making it easier for people to get the groceries they need.
Food banking is a complex logistical effort that requires efficiencies at every point along the way – from obtaining or procuring food to implementing safe handling and storage practices to selecting local charities to help distribute the food.
Food banks receive food from a variety of national and local sources. Including:
The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service provides food banks with almost 2 billion pounds of food annually through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and other nutrition programs
Food banks affiliated with Feeding America receive food through their programs
The State’s CalFood program provides money to TEFAP food providers annually to purchase California produced food
Food banks frequently receive large donations from generous individuals in their communities
Local grocery stores partner with local food banks to provide unsold or surplus food
Kindhearted community members and companies hold food drives
CAFB members can purchase produce and proteins, like eggs and meats, as well as shelf table food through our Farm to Family program for wholesale or nominal fees
Food banks began in the United States in the late 1960’s and in California in the early 1970’s. Since, hundreds of food banks have been established throughout the U.S. with more than 40 of them right here in California.
Food banks are a critical part of the food cycle. Each food bank helps avert millions of pounds of good food that would otherwise be wasted. Many food banks also work with pig farmers and the like to ensure the food that cannot be eaten by people goes to good use.
Food banks in California serve diverse geographical areas, ranging from rural food banks that work with local nonprofit partners to serve remote, isolated communities to large urban food banks with hundreds of nonprofit partners that serve many neighborhoods.
Since the early 2000’s, many food banks have evolved from providing primarily canned goods to now providing vast amounts of fresh produce and proteins.
Many food banks continue to evolve their operations, finding ways to allow clientele to select their food items with farmer’s market style distributions, and ensuring their food is culturally appropriate for the populations they serve.