What is a Food Bank?

Sheri Cyprus

A food bank is an organization set up to receive donations of food to be distributed to those who are hungry and in need. Food banks may be permanent organizations or they may be formed to temporarily provide food such as to victims of a natural disaster. Food banks are a part of many neighborhoods today and they usually rely on volunteers to keep them going.

Supermarkets donate items to food banks that are still good but too close to the expiration date to sell.
Supermarkets donate items to food banks that are still good but too close to the expiration date to sell.

A food bank receives donated items from supermarkets and other companies in the food industry. The food is still edible and within the expiry date, but too close to the expiration date to sell on the shelf. Food banks must distribute perishable foods efficiently to reach those who need them. A food bank may work with anti-poverty groups who arrange feedings from a church or community center.

Food banks are frequented by those who are homeless.
Food banks are frequented by those who are homeless.

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Some anti-poverty groups prepare food donated to a food bank and bring the prepared goods to those in need. In the case of homeless people, other items may be given along with the food such as socks, a blanket, clothing or personal care products. Second-hand stores may donate good used clothing and blankets to groups who work with food banks.

Food banks rely on volunteers.
Food banks rely on volunteers.

A food bank may also operate as a food pantry in which donated non-perishables are placed on shelves and people who cannot afford to buy food can choose foods from the shelves. Food banks that are low on overall food donations may call on the public to donate items. Businesses may volunteer to keep a donation bin in their store for client donations. Canned or packaged items and baby food in jars are usually welcome donations by most food banks.

Canned foods are good to donate to food banks.
Canned foods are good to donate to food banks.

Food banks also accept cash donations and may use the money to purchase items that they're low on so that they can help to feed people. The food pantry type of food banks help those who have housing, but cannot afford to buy enough food. They serve people who may be working and/or may have children to feed.

Food banks provide nourishment to homeless people.
Food banks provide nourishment to homeless people.
Food banks may collect bottled water to distribute.
Food banks may collect bottled water to distribute.
Most food banks take baby food.
Most food banks take baby food.

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