Stretch Your Dollar

Feeding America, the largest hunger relief charity in the United States with 200 food banks, estimates that a $1 donation can provide enough food to make seven meals (about 9 pounds of food).

How Do Food Banks Distribute Food?

Although local charities like faith-based missions and soup kitchens sometimes receive donations directly from private citizens or businesses, they often turn to food banks as their primary source for staple, nutritious foods.

Food banks can vary in their distribution methods, but they usually support a list of member organizations and maintain a warehouse of goods available for pick-up or delivery. Food banks typically receive foods in bulk and repackage them for delivery. They have procedures similar to those of most distribution-related businesses, like an accounting department and warehouse and maintenance personnel.

Member organizations are required to meet specific criteria to become eligible to receive food. They must prove that they provide meals or food free of charge at their facilities, maintain an ongoing feeding program, and meet state and federal tax or nonprofit guidelines. Member organizations may include:

  • faith-based groups like missions, church pantries, mosques and synagogues
  • soup kitchens
  • group homes
  • homeless shelters
  • day care programs
  • senior care centers
  • emergency canteens
  • meal services to the housebound
  • job placement facilities

Member organizations don't pay for food, but they're usually responsible for some sort of processing or maintenance fee that constitutes a small portion of the cost of the goods they receive. The maintenance fee amount will vary from region to region and from one food bank to another.

Now let's take a look at some ways you can help a food bank near you.