One of the primary reasons The Global FoodBanking Network exists is to advance and unite food banks so they can reliably connect their communities to nutritious food and reduce food loss and waste.
It’s a simple idea to explain, but executing the idea is much more complex. Food banks serve diverse populations and operate programs that respond to complicated issues.
The second objective of GFN’s 2019-2022 strategic plan was designed to respond to that challenge, pushing member food banks toward the next stage of their development. “Objective two focuses on strengthening Network institutions, ensuring that they continue to benefit the communities where they’re located for the long-term,” said President & CEO Lisa Moon.
To help meet this objective, GFN started several initiatives that complement existing programs. In 2019, GFN launched the Food Bank Incubator program to accelerate the development of newly established food banks through intensive technical support, mentoring, and guidance on partnership opportunities. In 2021, GFN built on its years of experience to create a dedicated New Food Bank Development program, which walks local leaders through the complicated processes that accompany launching food banks. And that same year, GFN launched the Knowledge Networks pilot to give food bank members ongoing opportunities for peer-to-peer collaboration.
Moon highlighted two key traits common among these and other programs at GFN that significantly contribute to strengthening food banks.
A cohort approach: At GFN, training and capacity building are collaborative and inclusive by design. Food banks join not only GFN staff members but regional peers to focus on common challenges and learn from each other. “I like to think that’s the secret sauce of an organization like ours, a network,” Moon said. “We exist to foster international collaboration, and we believe that innovation comes from convening. And convening local food bank leaders from around the world is something unique that we offer.”Moon added that the expansion of the Network in recent years—through programs like New Food Bank Development and Food Bank Incubator—brings innovation through new voices. “When you go from having 33 members to 49 members, and they’re led by people who have very different ideas and backgrounds, that in and of itself strengthens the Network,” she said.
Services tailored to unique contexts: Through 15 years of experience, GFN knows that services customized to the specific needs of each food bank member lead to long-lasting change—so that customization is consistent throughout programming. Part of the way GFN keeps up with those needs is through its annual member satisfaction survey. The survey collects anonymous feedback from food bank executive directors, and it was emphasized and expanded as a part of strategic objective two, to better inform the organization. “We’ve made a concerted effort to listen to the needs and concerns of GFN members,” said Moon, “and we’ve built programming and capacity to respond. I’m proud of the progress made, and we will continue to seek out ways to improve service.”
These two programmatic components will continue to permeate GFN’s work in the upcoming strategic plan as well. “We’re only as strong as our individual members,” Moon said, “and we want to align with the aspirations of the Network we’re serving.”
“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.