Food banks and food pantries play important roles to fight hunger. There are millions of people experiencing food insecurity and a food bank and a pantry continue to help these individuals. However, food banks and food pantries are often used interchangeably, but these are not the same.
What is the difference between a food bank and food pantry? Today, there are over 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries in the US. However, it’s easy to get confused between the two.
Don’t worry; in this post, we’ll discuss their differences to give you a clearer idea of what each one is and how you can help give back to the community!
A food bank is the “distributor,” or a centralized facility where food pantries can get their sources. It’s a non-profit organization that stores millions of pounds of food to be sent to local food programs.
However, food banks come in various sizes. There are some that are huge, while some are on the smaller end. Either way, the food these banks store is donated by grocery stores, local neighbors, and restaurants.
Furthermore, Feeding America connects food banks to a network of additional resources.
So basically, food banks function like a warehouse because they can hold a lot of food compared to food pantries. Aside from the local community’s food donations, food banks also purchase food in bulk or wholesale prices.
A food bank is a supply line that works through a network of food air partners and programs to distribute food to food pantries, soup kitchens, and many more. Food banks hire drivers to make the deliveries.
Aside from delivering canned goods, food banks also provide perishable items. Also, they also offer other services to help clients, such as educational initiatives to break poverty and improve quality of life. Other programs include local farm partnerships and nonprofit grocery stores.
Food banks may also provide additional resources through federally funded programs.
So, what is a food pantry? This is one of the places where food from the food bank goes. Every week, a food pantry feeds hundreds of people. However, every community is different; therefore, food pantries also vary in size.
Usually, you will find a food pantry inside a school because it makes it easier for kids and their families to get food.
There are also mobile food pantries that go around local communities with pre-packed boxes of food. These mobile food pantries help make food more accessible to those who are in need.
One way to tell the difference between a food bank and food pantry is that only one feed people directly, and that is a food pantry. It is also the responsibility of food pantries to seek and help local individuals and families receive food.
Food banks and food pantries are integral components to fight against hunger. The good thing is that there are so many ways you can give back to your community. You can volunteer at a local organization or even donate.
Food banks continue to help address food insecurity across the US and other parts of the world. But wait, what is it? A food bank is a non-profit, charitable organization that distributes food to those who can’t fend for themselves. The effort helps fight hunger.
Now, the question is, how much can a food bank hold?
Find out more below.
The Operational Models
Globally, there are thousands of operating food banks but not all of them are the same. One of the things that set food banks apart is the operational model.
A food bank that operates on the front line model gives food directly to people, while the warehouse model supplies food to intermediaries, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and other front-line organizations.
The warehouse model can typically hold a lot of food. So, based on government data, the average warehouse is 16,400 square feet. A warehouse that size can store enough food.
In the US, Australia, and some parts of Canada, the standard model for food banks acts as a warehouse. Furthermore, it is common for cities to have a single food bank that acts as a centralized warehouse that serves hundred front-line agencies in the US. Therefore, this type of food bank will work similarly to a for-profit food distributor, but in this case, it distributed food to non-food retailers but to charities.
A Bigger Capacity In the Works
In June 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they will invest up to $1 billion, including $500 million in American Rescue Plan funding, in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The funds can help support and expand food banks and local organizations to serve their communities.
Due to the global pandemic, the USDA carries a stronger belief that the food system’s future should be fair, distributed, competitive, and resilient. This investment is the first part of their new initiative called Build Back Better.
“Hunger is on the decline, thanks to aggressive action by the Biden-Harris Administration, but we must do more to improve partnerships and infrastructure that power emergency food distribution to ensure the food provided is nutritious and supports a better food system,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Up to $100 million will go to infrastructure grants to build capacity for food banks and expand their reach. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will launch a new program to help food assistance organizations meet TEFAP requirements while strengthening infrastructure and expanding their reach.
With this, how much a food bank can hold will grow due to the incoming investments in infrastructure.
More Than Filling Bellies
The future is bright for food banks and this is because of how positively they’re evolving over the years. With a huge investment on its way, food banks also have proven that they’re not there only to feed the hungry, but also to provide nourishment that results in healthier communities.
Food banks are vital in addressing community health disparities through foods and other services they provide. Today, food banks are working to distribute more fresh fruits and vegetables to communities they serve.
You don’t need to worry about their capacity or how much food they can hold because they don’t stock all the foods there. There is an ongoing distribution that leaves food banks with enough space to collect and receive donations daily.
In the state of California, the COVID-19 crisis has changed the reality of emergency food assistance in the state. Last year, they launched Food Bank Capacity: $150M One-Time, which will make a long-term impact to improve the most crucial parts of the emergency food system. It will enable food banks and local partners to acquire and distribute more California-grown healthy produce and protein.
Additionally, they aim to purchase refrigerated trucks to receive and distribute food, cold storage to keep food fresh, and technology for modern inventory systems.
How You Can Help
Are you thinking of donating to a food bank? That’s great! Non-perishable goods are highly recommended, but you also might want to consider donating cash instead. Why? Your money can do more than a couple of boxes of non-perishable items. How is that possible?
Food banks work with grocers and manufacturers, which means they can acquire food much cheaper than you would pay at a grocery store. In fact, according to Feeding America, every dollar donated can secure and distribute 12 pounds of food, which is roughly around ten meals!
Another thing you can do is plan a monthly donation. Monthly and quarterly recurring donations help charities maintain a steady stream of revenue throughout the year. Moreover, it also helps them plan well for the coming months because they know they can work with something every month. Remember, your donation doesn’t have to be big—in fact, small amounts can go a long way.
In case you don’t have enough cash to buy groceries or donate, you can consider volunteering instead if you really want to help. Giving them a bit of your time will be helpful. A lot of organizations need additional volunteers to fill in for those who can’t serve, especially in a global pandemic. Many volunteers who have health concerns have been ordered to stay at home, which is why there is an increase in the demand for volunteers these years.
There are also some virtual positions available that you might be interested in, which usually include writing notes, making calls to thank donors, and a lot more.
Remember, it doesn’t take a lot of your time and money to make a difference.
Food banks will continue to evolve and help a significant number of people. Today, it’s not feeding hungry bellies, but food banks help promote healthier communities. With that, by finding ways to help, such as familiarizing yourself with how it works, how you can help, and many more, you’ll be able to contribute significantly and help a lot of people. As mentioned, small steps will go a long way.