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Behind the Scenes of Your Local Food Pantry

By: Brittany Engelmann-- 2016-04-11 9:30 am --

Every year, food banks across the country distribute a cumulative 3 billion meals to people in food-insecure situations. With about 200 food banks and 60,000 different meal programs distributed across all 50 states, towns large and small are working tirelessly to ensure all Americans have warm, nutritious meals year round. Yet, distributing all of that food is no easy task. Here’s how food pantries orchestrate their mission from day to day.

Collecting the Food in Warehouses

The majority of food pantries are operated by Feeding America, which manages large warehouses, called food banks, throughout the U.S. The warehouses are responsible for collecting and distributing bulk food items to food pantries, where they are then distributed to the community. At the warehouses, they receive donations of bulk non-perishable food that are collected and sorted by volunteers before being delivered to food pantries and meal programs in neighboring regions. In addition to collecting food from central food banks, each food pantry also collects food from the local community. Many communities rely on canned food drives at schools and churches, where non-perishable goods are collected and delivered to local pantries.

Distributing the Food

Feeding America offers a variety of different programs, including a mobile food pantry that delivers food to people in remote areas or people who are unable to travel. The organization relies on volunteer labor to sort all of the products and ensure they are fresh, undamaged, and safe to consume. The food is then sorted into boxes or bags, each containing a variety of different types of food, so each person gets a package containing all essential food groups. Each food pantry opens their doors to the public at scheduled times every week, and people line up to collect their box of groceries.  

How Can You Help?

Food pantries are vital to ensuring all people and families have access to nutritious meals. About 45 million Americans are living below the U.S. poverty line. This makes it incredibly difficult for them to afford all of the daily necessities for their families. You can help to make sure your neighbors always have enough to eat by volunteering at your local food pantry. It requires a tremendous amount of labor daily to ensure all food pantries are staffed, and volunteering just a couple of hours per month could make a tremendous difference.

By donating bulk non-perishable food items, you can ensure your local food pantry is always well stocked and able to cater to a variety of food allergies and preferences. Food pantries are most in need of:

  • Canned meals like chili and soup
  • Canned tuna and meat
  • Cereal
  • Juice boxes
  • Fruit rolls
  • Canned vegetables
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned beans
  • Cheese and cracker snack packs
  • Granola bars
  • Applesauce
  • Pretzels
  • Raisins

Since food banks serve homeless and low-income people who may lack household supplies, they greatly prefer food items that are fully cooked and able to be opened by hand, such as cans containing pop-tops. They also recommend avoiding any foods packaged in glass, so as to prevent breakage and potential injuries.

Food banks across the U.S. are working overtime to ensure everyone has access to nutritious and wholesome meals. To meet their demands, they depend on members of the community to volunteer their time and resources to help make ends meet. By donating bulk non-perishable food, you can support children and families in your community and ensure your neighbors have access to the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Browse a variety of low-cost non-perishable meals today, and give your community members the gift of good health and nutrition.