Fifteen years ago, The Global FoodBanking Network was created to ensure that people around the world have access to food. The mission was simple: launch, strengthen, and sustain a global network of local food banks to support communities when they need it most. This mission still guides us today.
Innovate to Alleviate celebrates our 15th anniversary by highlighting 15 unique innovations—game-changing approaches and adaptations from GFN and member food banks that make hunger alleviation efforts more efficient, effective, and inclusive. Kicking off on International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste and concluding on World Food Day, this campaign demonstrates how food banks are an important component to solving hunger that are rooted in the communities they serve and essential to resilient food systems.
The world produces enough food to feed everyone, but 768 million people currently experience hunger—and that number is rising.
It’s a somber and complex challenge, but it’s one that food banks are uniquely designed to address. Why? Because they are attuned to the specific needs of the communities in which they operate. Put simply, food banks know how to get quality food into the hands of their neighbors, fast. And a key part of their success is powering communities to alleviate hunger on their own terms.
This is one of the most essential and effective innovations of the food bank model, and we’re thrilled to highlight it as part of The Global FoodBanking Network’s (GFN) 15-year anniversary campaign Innovate to Alleviate, where we showcase 15 innovations from our history that demonstrate how food banks play a central role in reducing hunger around the world.
What does powering communities to alleviate hunger mean?
The idea behind food banking is straightforward: Edible food that would otherwise end up in landfills can instead be collected and redirected to people facing hunger. But the success of food banking requires more intentionality—food banks are successful when they are rooted in, responsive to, and respectful of local contexts. In other words, the food bank model is effective and efficient because it ensures a community’s own leaders are in the driver’s seat, responding to unique local needs to move toward Zero Hunger.
Powering communities to alleviate hunger in this way has played a key role in the success of food banks for decades, and especially in The Global FoodBanking Network’s success over the past 15 years.
When local leaders decide a food bank would strengthen their community’s resilience, GFN is there to support its launch. For those who are already serving their communities through food banking, GFN helps provide resources, connections, and decades of experience that make it easier to reach more hungry people, with more nutritious food.
Lagos, Nigeria, December 18, 2020: A group of women carry boxes of food provided by Lagos Food Bank Initiative. Food banks have been a lifeline for communities during the COVID-19 crisis, as rates of food insecurity and malnutrition increase. (Photo: Lagos Food Bank Initiative)
Powering the ideas and innovations of local leaders is built into the DNA of our organization. GFN was founded by Bill Rudnick and Bob Forney, who wanted to share their deep food banking experiences with dedicated, determined people working to alleviate hunger in their own neighborhoods. The two learned that networks such as Bancos de Alimentos de México (BAMX) and Food Banks Canada were receiving a substantial number of international requests for food bank assistance. At the time, there was no organization to address such requests coming from outside North America or Europe. In response, Forney and Rudnick, BAMX, Food Banks Canada, and what would soon become Red Argentina de Bancos de Alimentos formed The Global FoodBanking Network.
Reflecting on the early years of GFN, Rudnick wrote, “It takes a broad-based, local coalition of people willing to devote time and energy to make [a food bank] happen.”
Drawing on that broad, local coalition of willing participants, food banks emerge from their communities, and they connect and collaborate with other local institutions with similar missions. Most food banks distribute food through partners like schools, daycares, hospitals, homeless shelters, and other social service providers that are already working and building relationships with people in vulnerable situations. These close partnerships ensure that local institutions benefit from one another’s expertise, and they remind us that our best opportunities to thrive come when we work together.
The impact of powering communities to address hunger is clear: In 2020, GFN member food banks served 40 million people across more than 40 countries. And while there is still much work to be done, we’re proud of the way our food banks are rooted, shaped, and powered by their communities. This innovation will continue to reduce hunger and foster functional, resilient food systems for years to come.
Learn more about other unique innovations that support hunger alleviation efforts in communities around the world.