Food Banks Grow Their Own!
Originally published December 9 2013
It’s about time! Food banks start small gardens to grow fresh produce for needy
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) Food banks or food pantries are non-profit charitable organizations that find ways to collect, store and distribute free food to the truly needy.

Most who help out are volunteers, and their funding depends largely on the government, non-government foundation grants, businesses and individual donations. Matching grant funds to individual donations are common.

The first food bank in the world was St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Arizona, founded by retired business man John van Hengal in 1967 and still strong today. While volunteering at St. Vincent’s soup kitchen, John met a woman who came often and told him that she depended on the soup kitchen and supermarket dumpsters to survive.

That’s when John got the idea for the food bank, which has since been replicated in several cities in every American state and many other nations. At first, food banks relied on food processing rejects or excess retail warehouse packaged foods that were considered marginal or too close to the “sell by” date to go on the shelves.

But initially, they distributed almost no fresh produce directly from agriculture.

A shift toward fresh food from the soil

As the food processing industry and grocery industry became better at avoiding banged up packaging or letting food items pass their sale dates, the availability of free or low-cost food for free distribution dwindled.

And as the unhealthy nature of processed foods became more obvious to a greater number of people, supplying fresh produce gradually became the goal of many food banks.

A major player in this movement was Bill Folz of the California Association of Food Banks, who developed the Farm to Family project. He and his colleagues became gleaners, picking out vegetables and fruits that were rejected as unworthy for retailers though still edible and nutritious.

But the level of gleaning was way beyond walking through fields after a harvest and collecting what was unsuitable for the marketplace in sacks. This project evolved into collecting massive amounts of produce at very low costs from farm storage facilities that weren’t getting sold to retailers or through food brokers.

Highly nutritious white sweet potatoes were among the first and easiest to collect for next to nothing. Those potatoes don’t have the secondary processed food market (chips, canned pie fillings, etc.) to purchase them that orange sweet potatoes enjoy.

The challenges of procuring fresh foods varied according to the types of food. Some foods that weren’t up to being sold as-is in retail could be sold to food processors who made snack or ready-made canned variations from them. Some others, especially fruits, were too ripe to be sold and needed to be stored under intense refrigeration.

But in a few short years, the Farm to Family project of the California Association of Food Banks has met those challenges with a capacity of collecting over 80 million pounds of produce for distribution.

Now, some food banks are even growing their own produce. A food bank in Vermont purchased a 20-acre farm a few years ago.

Most recently, a food bank in a suburb of Philadelphia’s Chester County has joined 20 other food banks that grow some of their own, providing a fourth to a third of what they distribute. The Chester County food bank has over 12 acres spread out into smaller lots, some with covered grow housing.

Agricultural director Bill Shick notes that volunteers are more excited to participate in the growing process than simply placing cans into boxes or stuffing envelopes.

Most of what they grow are leafy vegetables that would require expensive refrigeration if procured from outside farms. In addition to providing higher nutrition to needy families, this keeps food bank overhead costs down.

Sources for this article include:

5 Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste

Five Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste | Nourishing the Planet.


Five Simple Things Consumers Can Do to Prevent Food Waste

January 18, 2012 – By Graham Salinger

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of edible food is thrown away by retailers and households. In the United Kingdom, 8.3 million tons of food is wasted by households each year. To make the world more food secure consumers need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less.

Food waste remains a large factor contributing to food insecurity around the world, but consumers can help reduce the amount of food that is wasted each year. (Photo credit: Back to the Garden Inc)

Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five ways that consumers can help prevent food waste.

1. Compost: In addition to contributing to food insecurity, food waste is harmful to the environment. Rotting food that ends up in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is a major contributor to global climate change and can negatively affect crop yields. Composting is a process that allows food waste to be converted into nutrient rich organic fertilizer for gardening.

Compost in Action: In Denver, the city contracts with A1 Organics, a local organic recycling business, to take people’s waste and turn it into compost for local farmers. Similarly, a new pilot program in New York City allows patrons to donate food scraps to a composting company that gives the compost to local farmers.

2. Donate to food banks: Donating food that you don’t plan to use is a great way to save food while helping to feed the needy in your community.

Food Banks in Action: In Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta Community Food Bank relies on food donations to supply 20 million pounds of food to the poor each year. In Tennessee, the Second Harvest Food Bank works to reduce waste resulting from damaged cans by testing the cans to make sure that they don’t have holes in them that would allow food to spoil. For more on how you can donate food that would otherwise go to waste, visit Feed America, a national network of food banks.

3. Better home storage: Food is often wasted because it isn’t stored properly which allows it to mold, rot, or get freezer burn. By storing food properly consumers can reduce the amount of food they waste.

Better storage in Action:  The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) is a great resource for consumers to learn a range of techniques to increase the shelf life of food. For example, they recommend blanching vegetables, briefly boiling vegetables in water, and then freezing them. They also stress canning fruits and vegetables to protect them against bacteria.

4. Buy less food: People often buy more food than they need and allow the excess food to go to waste. Reducing food waste requires that consumers take responsibility for their food consumption. Instead of buying more food, consumers should buy food more responsibly.

Buying Less Food in Action: Making a shopping list and planning meals before shopping will help you buy the amount of food that is needed so that you don’t waste food. There are a number of services that help consumers shop responsibly—Mealmixer and e-mealz help consumers make a weekly shopping list that fits the exact amount of food that they need to buy. Eating leftovers is another great way to reduce the amount of food that needs to be purchased. At, patrons can search for recipes based on leftover ingredients that they have.  Similarly, Love Food Hate Waste, offers cooking enthusiasts recipes for their leftovers.

5. Responsible grocery shopping: Consumers should make sure that they shop at places that practice responsible waste management. Many grocery stores are hesitant to donate leftovers to food banks because they are worried about possible liabilities if someone gets sick. But consumers can encourage grocery chains to reduce food waste by supporting local food banks in a responsible manner.

Responsible grocery shopping in Action: Safeway and Vons grocery chains donate extra food to Feeding America. Additionally, Albertsons started a perishable food recovery program that donates meat and dairy to food banks. The Fresh Rescue program, which partners with various national supermarkets,  has also helped food banks with fundraising in 37 states.

Do you know of other simple ways that consumers can help in reducing food waste? Let us know in the comments section!

Graham Salinger is a research interns for the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read more about food waste, see: Reducing Food Waste: Making the Most of Our Abundance, Innovation of the Week: Reducing Food Waste, and Fresh Ideas for Food Waste.

Feeding America: Food Assistance Becoming the “New Normal”

Food Assistance Becoming the “New Normal”

Emergency food from pantries is no longer being used to meet temporary acute food needs. A majority of our clients now visit food pantries as a “normal” part of their strategy to supplement monthly shortfalls in food.

Emergency food is no longer used to meet temporary food needs.

(54%) of our clients are “frequent” users, meaning they have visited a food pantry monthly for at least six months or more during the past year.
Additionally, over one third of all clients (36%) are “recurrent” users, having visited a food pantry at least every month within the past year
Pantries are now a part of households’ long term strategy to supplement monthly shortfalls in food.

Our SNAP recipients are among the most frequent users.

Among clients currently receiving SNAP benefits, over half (58%) have visited a food pantry monthly for at least six months or more during the past year.
The shorter clients’ benefits last throughout the month, the more likely a client is going to visit a pantry every month.
This speaks to the use of food pantries as a coping strategy for many clients who are receiving limited SNAP benefits.

This research demonstrates what we’ve been seeing anecdotally in our food banks and agencies.

For the first time, we have measured the frequency that people have been relying on food pantries.
For most food banks and pantries, the findings are not a surprise.

This study underscores the ongoing need amongst our clients and the need for continued support of SNAP.

Without SNAP, this continues to create further strain on the network as the number of recurrent and frequent clients use an already over-burdened system along with the growing population of new clients. Feeding America currently serves 37 million individuals each year, up 46% since 2006.
We can also see the beginning of the “perfect storm:” Food prices are going up, food manufacturers are facing their own squeeze in the tough economy, and are responding as one would expect in the market, seeking greater efficiencies, which means fewer donations. Charitable contributions are also harder to come by as more Americans feel the economic squeeze. State and local governments are cutting back on social services.

Get the press release.