Food Banking Questions:
What is a food bank?
What’s the difference between a food bank and a food pantry or soup kitchen?
How can my organization get food from my local food bank?
Where do food banks get their food?
Can I receive food directly from a food bank?
How can I get food?
Questions About Contributing:
How can I support my local food bank?
How can I volunteer at my local food bank?
What does more good, donating food or money?
I’m a grower. Who can I talk to about making a donation to Farm to Family?
Food Banking Questions:
A food bank is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that solicits, stores, and distributes donated food. This food is then distributed to a variety of smaller partner agencies which directly serve people in need. Many food banks provide food to hundreds of member agencies in their community who would otherwise lack the means to obtain and store enough food to meet the needs of the people they serve.
Food banks in California are very diverse, ranging from smaller operations that serve just a few agencies spread across large rural areas to multi-acre facilities that store and distribute millions of pounds of food each year.
Food banks’ primary role is to supply food pantries, soup kitchens, and other smaller agencies with the food to meet the needs of their communities, with some food banks serving hundreds of smaller agencies across multiple counties. These smaller agencies then distribute food directly to people in need. Food banks and food pantries thus serve very different roles, but both are vital to maintaining the flow of food to people in need.
Over 6,000 nonprofit agencies such as schools, churches, and senior centers receive food from CAFB’s 40+ member food banks. However, every food bank has different requirements for selecting its local partners. Some may require an organization to have a food distribution program already in place, while others may be unable to accept new agency applications due to inventory and logistical limitations. For more information about how your organization can become a member agency, please contact your local food bank directly. You can use our Food Bank Finder to locate the food bank nearest to you.
Food banks receive food from a variety of national and local sources. Nationally, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service provides food banks with almost 2 billion pounds of food annually through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and other nutrition programs. Many of CAFB’s member food banks also receive food through their affiliation with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief agency. At the state level, California’s CalFood provides money to food banks each year for food purchases. At the local level, food banks frequently receive large donations from generous individuals in their communities as well as surplus product from nearby businesses that supplement the smaller donations received from food drives. CAFB member food banks also receive 160 million pounds each year of fresh produce thanks to CAFB’s Farm to Family program.
Generally, no. While some food banks operate programs that distribute food directly to individuals, the primary purpose of a food bank is to help ensure an adequate flow of food to smaller, community-based agencies such as churches, senior centers, and schools. These smaller agencies then distribute the food directly to individuals in their area.
Those in need can receive food from their local food assistance agencies.
If you are in need of immediate assistance, please dial 2-1-1 to find emergency food providers in your area. If 2-1-1 is unavailable in your area, please use our Food Bank Finder to contact your local food bank about emergency food options in your community.
Questions about CAFB:
If your organization is interested in applying for membership, please contact Terry Garner, Member Services Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-350-9911.
The mission of California Association of Food Banks is to provide a unified voice among food banks to maximize their ability to build a well nourished California. To accomplish this mission, the membership of 41 food banks focuses on increasing the visibility of hunger and its solutions, assisting Californians in accessing food assistance and nutrition programs, distributing fresh produce through the Farm to Family program and influencing public policy at the state and federal level.
For a detailed overview of CAFB’s programs and services, please visit What We Do.
In brief, CAFB provides support to its member food banks and the Californians they serve through the following program areas:
- The Alliance to Transform CalFresh (ATC)
- CalFresh Outreach
- Farm to Family
- Member Services
- Produce Education Program
CAFB began in 1995 with a single staff member devoted to anti-hunger advocacy. CAFB has since grown into a sophisticated organization with over 20 full-time employees. While CAFB has become a national leader in food security advocacy and innovation, we remain committed to helping our members build capacity and remain on the cutting-edge of the anti-hunger movement. For a full list of CAFB’s various programs and activities, see What We Do.
Questions About Contributing:
There are numerous ways to help fight hunger in your community, from making a monthly contribution to organizing a virtual food drive to donating your time at a food bank warehouse. Different food banks have different needs. For more information on the needs of the food bank in your community, please use our Food Bank Finder.
From large groups to individuals, from a one-time event to a recurring commitment, our food banks have plenty of ways for you and your friends to help fight hunger in your community. Whether you’ll be sorting fresh produce, assisting at food distributions, or serving as a translator at a CalFresh Outreach event is up to you and your local food bank. To see what opportunities are available, contact the food bank in your area using our Food Bank Finder.
While food banks appreciate community food drives, donating funds can have a far more powerful impact. Because of their size, food banks are able to purchase food from retailers, wholesalers, and farmers at extremely low cost. On average, a California food bank can purchase 5 pounds of food for every dollar it receives.
Establishing a recurring monthly donation can be one of the most meaningful ways to support your local food bank, especially since donations tend to taper off after the holiday season. By supporting your local food bank all year round, you help our members provide more consistent service to the communities they reach.
On a larger scale, farmers and growers can have a tremendous impact by donating fresh, unmarketable produce to CAFB’s Farm to Family program. Last year, 100+ partners provided over 160 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables through Farm to Family. With tax incentives and a reliable, rapid response to available product, donating to Farm to Family is already making a positive impact on many growers’ bottom lines.
Farmers, growers, and packers are always welcome to give us a call! Our 130+ partners have found that partnering with CAFB has had a positive impact their bottom line. CAFB and its member food banks are always ready to respond rapidly to available product.
To learn how you can help bring fresh fruits and vegetables to Californians in need, please contact Steve Linkhart, Director of Farm to Family, at email@example.com or (510) 350-9916.
For more information, please visit Farm to Family.
Nearly 1 in 7 Californians face food insecurity This means 4.8 million people in California are forced to choose between buying food or meeting such basic needs as housing, medical bills, childcare, or transportation. What’s more, 1.9 million of those individuals are children, meaning 1 in every 5 children in California may go to bed hungry. While the impact of hunger is not always obvious, hunger is present in all of our communities and classrooms. For more information on hunger in California, please see our fact sheet.
In addition to donating time, funds, or food, individuals concerned with ending hunger in their communities can join CAFB as allies in anti-hunger advocacy by signing up for updates here. By signing up, you can stay abreast of the latest developments in state and federal anti-hunger policy. Many of our member food banks also engage in advocacy on a local, state, and federal level. Contact your local food bank to sign up for the latest updates from their advocacy staff.