Climate Change Mitigation

Food Banks Respond to Climate Change Emergencies

Climate change is forcing people from their homes, bringing extreme poverty to already vulnerable communities, and becoming a major driver of food insecurity. 

Communities served by food banks are already in vulnerable situations, and that means these communities are disproportionately affected by climate-related disasters. Food banks are woven into the fabric of those communities and have always been well positioned to respond when disaster strikes, but with the pervasive threat of climate change, food banks are having to respond at a much faster rate. 

Continue on to see how members of The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) are stepping up to ensure people affected by these emergencies have basic needs met during times of crisis. 

Colombia: Hurricane Iota 

In 2020, Hurricane Iota devastated the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia, damaging 98 percent of the infrastructure of Providencia and displacing nearly 700 families in San Andres. Once the storm had passed, Asociación de Bancos de Alimentos de Colombia (ABACO) and a team of emergency responders mobilized quickly to assess the situation to extend their support. 

ABACO worked across a team of private sector partners to organize the logistics to ensure food could be delivered to the islands. The food was re-routed to Cartagena from three major cities across the country, and through a private shipping company, delivered to San Andres and Providencia. In the immediate aftermath, the islands were difficult to access, and required planes and boats to deliver essentials.  

Nearly five years prior to this disaster, ABACO joined an emergency task force to ensure that they would be engaged as first responders when an emergency hit. 

“We were able to reach the islands even before the Colombian military,” explained Juan Carlos Buitrago Ortiz, executive director, ABACO. “Our role during an emergency is to activate the private sector. Without our partners and working together, we’d all be duplicating efforts and wasting critical time.”  

Philippines: Typhoon Odette 

On the other side of the world, lying close to the Equator within the Pacific Ring of Fire, the archipelagic country of the Philippines is no stranger to natural disasters. At least 60 percent of the country’s total land area, nearly 300,000 square kilometers, is vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons, leading many experts to describe the Philippines as the most disaster-prone country in the world. 

Annually, GFN member Rise Against Hunger Philippines (RAHP) sets aside 20 percent of the total rice-soy fortified meal packs and food bank inventory for disaster relief preparedness. Together with partners in the local government and other NGOs, food and other assistance is distributed to displaced families and individuals. In addition, RAHP mobilized the support of the Philippine air force, army, and navy to bring aid to remote communities not easily accessible. 

“At Rise Against Hunger, we respond to sudden and ongoing crises to meet the immediate needs of affected populations and support the transition toward recovery.”
Jomar Fleras, executive director, RAHP

In December 2021, the country was hit by Super Typhoon Odette, the second most powerful typhoon to hit since Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The storm left millions of Filipinos displaced and without homes. RAHP was able to activate their network and fundraise more than USD $120,000 and supported 3,000 families after the storm.  

“At Rise Against Hunger, we respond to sudden and ongoing crises to meet the immediate needs of affected populations and support the transition toward recovery,” said Jomar Fleras, executive director, RAHP “We respond to emergencies by delivering food assistance, nutrition, water filters, and hygiene kits to those displaced after disaster.” 

Kenya: Drought 

In addition, countries in the Horn of Africa are staring down the region’s worst drought in at least 70 years, after facing the sixth consecutive failed rainy season. As crops and livestock perish, families are being forced to go without food. More than 20 million people now face severe levels of food insecurity.  

In the region, Food Banking Kenya (FBK) has focused primarily on agricultural recovery to serve community members in recent years. Since the drought, supply from farms has been limited, and the food bank has had to come up with solutions to provide service to communities most severely impacted. For example, FBK operates a mobile food banking service that has provided groups such as Kenya’s Maasai people with food assistance during this time. 

As nomadic pastoralists, the Maasai are particularly vulnerable to the impact of drought, losing land and water with which to graze and nourish their livestock. The food bank has not only provided emergency assistance; they have also supported the Maasai community in adopting drought resistant crop farming practices, which can strengthen their resilience in the face of mounting climate challenges. 

GFN Supports Food Banks During Crisis 

Food banks like Asociación de Bancos de Alimentos de Colombia, Rise Against Hunger Philippines, and Food Banking Kenya ensure a coordinated emergency response by working closely with other disaster relief organizations and finding innovative solutions.  

GFN supports these locally led organizations to be ready for any situation by providing specialized technical assistance, offering emergency response grants, advising on disaster response plans, and encouraging food banks to become recognized as essential service providers. And after the initial phases of disaster, food banks continue to help communities recover and are critically important to help adapt to the long-term impact of changing seasons and harvests due to climate change.  

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