Food banks provide meals for millions across the world. But how do they get started?

Food banks provide meals for millions of people across the world. But how do they get started?   Thousands of communities around the world are served by food banks, which recover surplus food for the purposes of hunger relief.  But how do these organizations get started?  Our field team shares its experience on the necessary steps to launch a food bank. 1. Assess the food bank and the community’s unique situation The first step in the process is the assessment phase. It is important to review the environmental issues related to the creation and operation of a food bank in your community before acting. Some of the issues to consider include: Who is hungry? Why are they hungry?  Are there specific issues affecting this community? How are meals to those facing hunger being provided?  Is there surplus food available?  Where is this food being lost or wasted?  Is it at the farm, manufacturer or retailer level? Following the assessment of the environmental factors, it is crucial to understand the accessible resources in terms of food, funds, and volunteers. Once there is an in-depth understanding of the environment and resources in a community, it’s time to start planning. 2. Build an organizational and resource development plan The planning phase calls for the collaboration of stakeholders in your  community. Stakeholders may include high-level government officials, major food industry leaders, community groups, or religious organizations.  These players can help identify the most critical needs and opportunities to be addressed.  This group can also inform the development of an organizational plan and resource and development plan.  An organizational plan will put forward the food bank’s vision, mission and objectives.  It will lay out how food can be recovered, and which charitable agencies can help distribute the meals to people in need.  It will define how the food bank will expand operations and anticipate how it will work with other hunger relief and food waste reduction efforts in a community. This is also the stage when many founders reach out to The Global FoodBanking Network – and our team is happy to help! 3. Capitalizing and investigating for the future of the food bank After the two major plans are finished, the capitalization phase follows. This phase recruits the financial resources necessary to capitalize the start-up of the food bank. The budget should include all capital costs and first year operating costs.  Founders and founding Boards of Directors should consider both funds and in-kind support.  Often local businesses are able to offer warehouse space and volunteers can help pack and distribute food to charities that are serving people facing hunger.  Once the first three steps are completed, the exciting part begins, the implementation phase. 4. Launching the food bank As all the phases come together, operations can begin. Operations should include everything from staff hiring, creating a volunteer program, public relations, and everything in between. There should be special attention paid to sourcing food and partnering with the charities serving people facing hunger.  All these steps are crucial for the initial launch of a new food bank. With operations launched, the food bank will have to pay strict attention to safe handling of food and making sure that inventory is managed carefully so no donated food is diverted for re-sale or improper use.  It is important to oversee all aspects of the launch phase in order to make appropriate changes.  5. Adjusting the food bank to fit the communities needs Finally, the adjustment phase. During the first year of opening a functioning food bank it is recommended to conduct a full operation assessment. This  assessment will ensure that problems are being dealt with accordingly to create long-term success.  After a year of operations, The Global FoodBanking Network often starts working with the food bank to pursue GFN certification.  When awarded, GFN Certification affirms that a food bank is operating according to internationally recognized standards for food safety, traceability, and operational management.  Though the process of starting a food bank may seem complex and take time, it is worth it in the end, as food banks become a long-term community- based resource for people facing hunger.  Throughout the process, new food bankers are encouraged to reach out to GFN for advice, tips, and additional resources.  Check out GFN’s new food bank development tool kit here. Every food bank was started by a person or group of people concerned about hunger and the environment in their community.  Does your community need a food bank?  If so, consider starting one!