A community food pantry is a service that provides food to people in need. It’s run by a nonprofit organization such as a church group. These facilities receive, buy, store and distribute food. A food pantry must follow local, state and federal laws that relate to all aspects of food safety. Many such facilities in the United States apply for and receive 501(C)3 nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The IRS defines a nonprofit group as one that raises funds for charitable reasons without its directors and stockholders gaining any private income. Organizations with 501(C)3 status are tax exempt. They must use all of their earned income toward achieving their charity's goals. Many organizations that operate a food pantry also offer other services to low-income persons such as providing free clothing and job skills training.
Low-income persons who need help providing food for themselves or their families may be referred to a food pantry by another community agency such as a food bank. A food bank is a hunger relief agency that gives food to distributing organizations such as food pantries. They usually must become an agency member of a food bank before receiving any donations of food. The pantry must have adequate freezers, refrigerators and shelving to store food. The location that the pantries use for food storage must be clean and sanitary.
A food pantry often relies on grants. Grants are financial awards that don't have to be paid back. They are given to nonprofits for authorized purposes by organizations that support charities. Seed money refers to grants that are given to help start a charitable project or group.
A general operations grant can be used for anything that directly supports the charity's operations such as office supplies and wages. A general operations grant may be called an operating support grant. Restricted grants are a type of grant that can only be used for a specified purpose such as toward a special project that a charity such as a food pantry is organizing.
Charities must apply for grants in writing. Grant writing in order to fund a food pantry's hunger relief efforts may be done by the person in charge of the pantry. The person in charge must make sure that records of received and distributed food are kept. The recipients of food from pantries may be required to sign for the food since they are often qualified by their income level.