In 2019, The Global FoodBanking Network’s leadership set what felt like an ambitious first objective in a new strategic plan—to help food banks expand food relief around the world, reaching more than 15 million people by July 2022 and ultimately 50 million people by 2030.
“We thought we set a big, bold goal for 2030 with big, bold objectives to get us there,” said Lisa Moon, president and CEO of The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN). “What we didn’t know was that the challenges ahead of us were even greater than we realized.”
The world changed dramatically with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but GFN’s strategic planning process provided steady navigation into uncharted waters.
“The first objective of the strategic plan allowed us to both adapt and stay the path in tumultuous times,” said Moon. “It focused our work.”
That focus led to critical success in a difficult environment—one that provided both a significant increase in demand and more opportunities for food banks to serve their communities. In 2020 alone, 40 million people accessed food through a Network food bank. Newly established food banks—especially those located in regions where the food banking model isn’t yet prevalent—were critical to that success.
As we look to the end of our three-year strategic plan, Moon reflected on three key elements that contributed to meeting and, indeed, exceeding GFN’s strategic objective to expand food relief:
Dedicated local leaders are essential: A food bank is only successful when it’s designed and operated by local people who are exceptionally committed to the communities where they live. “When we talk about successfully expanding food relief, we have to start by crediting the leadership of Network food banks,” Moon said. “They’ve got incredible tenacity, and they’re extraordinarily dedicated—that’s the most important thing if you’re building anything.”
Newer food banks are progressing faster than ever: “What we’re seeing is that newer food banks are leapfrogging what [is seen as] the ‘normal’ evolution for a food bank,” said Moon. “Traditionally, a decade of maturation has been needed. In Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, organizations are growing much, much faster.” One of GFN’s key contributions to this growth is the Food Bank Incubator Program, which started in 2019 to accelerate the development of new food banks in regions where food insecurity is especially acute by providing context-specific technical support, mentoring, and partnership opportunities.
We continue to learn and improve as an organization: Leaning on our 15-year history, GFN provided services and funding quickly and efficiently, helping food banks rise to the challenges of the pandemic. “We focused on catalytic financing and smart capital-intensive investment,” said Moon. “We concentrated our technical assistance in areas we have seen pay dividends—like specific training for building a strong Board of Directors,” said Moon. “And as we build on our body of work, we’re able to help bring more and more partners to the table for food banks. But at the end of the day, the success is due to food bank leadership and personnel.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented myriad challenges for GFN and partner food banks. But in large part due to thoughtful and thorough planning, we achieved our strategic objective to expand food relief.
“The unexpected is not the rare,” Moon said. “We need to adapt to the world around us.”
“A Look Back at GFN’s Strategic Plan” is a series that examines the impact of our current strategic plan over the last three years. Stay tuned for our next piece, which dives into our second strategic objective, strengthening food banks.