A food bank is a place where people in need can get food, typically basic provisions and non-perishables for free.  Each year billions of pounds of food is wasted while one in four people in the world are malnourished. One in seven Americans rely on food banks. That's approximately 46 million people.  That's more than the populations of New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois combined. These scary figures are just one reason why food banks are important.

What do food banks do?

farmer's market, produce, fresh vegetables, local vegetables, lettuce, vegetable, herb
Sam Jesner

Food banks are a safe haven for many. They are usually charity run or non-profit organizations that provide food to those that would otherwise go hungry without. Food banks thrive on donations from outside parties including for-profit farmers and private citizens. Food banks also often receive donations from manufacturers, retailers and distributors of food. Food banks are often reliant on the hard work of volunteers. 

In addition to offering food for little to no cost, food banks also sometimes offer nutrition classes. In doing so, food banks become the intersection of food security, health, and nutrition. 

Who goes to food banks?

Fruit, Healthy, blueberries, berry, blueberry, sweet
Tess Tarantino

Stereotypes about food banks are wrong. The people who frequent food banks have jobs and are hard workers. They are employed and service society. People who go to food banks are not lazy and simply are not making ends meet. 

A study found that 43% of people who utilize food banks are white. 26% are black, 20% are Hispanic, and 11% identified as other.  33% of households that frequent food banks have at least one member with diabetes. 65% of households have either a child under 18 or a person over 60.

How do we help food banks?

couscous, quinoa, groats, millet, corn, buckwheat, porridge, cereal, wheat
Christin Urso

So, how do we help the people helping people? The first step is to donate food. While food banks will gladly take your donations, make sure its not just expired cans from your pantry. You can also organize a food drive for a local food bank. Go one step further and volunteer your time to help those in need.

Food banks serve an important purpose in America today. Without them and without exaggeration, people would starve. Access to food is a right and should not be a privilege. Often people must choose between paying the bills and feeding their children. We live in a world where that scenario exists. Food banks matter because that scenario exists.