What is a food bank?
A food bank is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that solicits, stores, and distributes donated food. This food is distributed to a variety of smaller partner agencies serving people struggling to put food on the table. 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.
There are five Feeding America member food banks in Louisiana who partner with more than 900 community and faith-based organizations throughout the state. These organizations range from church food pantries to large after school meal programs and even senior centers.
What's the difference between a food bank and a food pantry or soup kitchen?
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.
Where do food banks get their food?
Food banks receive food from a variety of national and local sources. Nationally, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service provides food banks with food through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and other nutrition programs. Louisiana’s food banks also receive food through their affiliation with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief agency. In the past, the state of Louisiana has provided money to food banks 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.