A food bank is usually a non-profit organization who gets donated food and then distribute the food to charities, soup kitchens, churches, food pantry places and to people that need food assistance. Food banks can be found in most big cities in the United States and even in smaller cities, too. Food banks serve everyone, from children to senior citizens. Food banks can be found in just about every country in the world and they play an important role in combating world hunger.
Studies estimate that 1 in 8 Americans have received food aid from a food bank this year. Almost a billion pounds of donated food is distributed to families and individuals every year. The largest food bank organization in America is Feeding America. Their network is vast and gives the food and other groceries items, to approximately 80% of all the food banks in the United States. In the United States alone, there are more than 25,000 food pantries in operation. Food pantries rely heavily on volunteers who help collect the food, organize it and distributes it needy individuals or families.
Corporations contribute a lot of food. Grocery store chains are some of the biggest contributers, especially for foods that are nonperishable. But they also donate fresh vegetables and fruits. Individuals also donate quite a bit of food. Many individuals donate directly to their local food bank or food pantry. Others give cash donations so that nutritional food may be bought. Government grants also help to fund these organizations in some cases.
Many food banks and food pantries will ask for identification and proof of residency before you can receive any food. Food banks usually serve a specific area, that may be a county or certain zip codes. You may have to fill out a application where you need to give details about your income and how many family members you have in your household.
The food is usually already boxed up or put in bags. But some places, like food pantries, actually let you go in and select from the shelves what you really want. There are often limitations on how many times a month you can use the food bank or food pantry or how much food you can take.
Food banks and food pantries need all types of food. Some food pantries cannot take frozen food because they do not have the equipment to store it but some place will take frozen food. The same goes for fresh fruit and vegetables, it depends if they have the right equipment to store it properly. Canned foods, powdered or canned milk, bags of rice, lentils, pasta and beans are always needed. Basically, boxes of groceries and canned food that has not expired is always appreciated. Of course, the boxes and cans have to be in good condition and all labels must still be on the package or can. Sometimes, homegrown vegetables or fruits will be accepted. Homemade food cannot be accepted at all.
But it is not just food items that are accepted by food banks or food pantries. They will also accept personal items such as toothpaste, shampoo and diapers for babies and adults.
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