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weeveeship's avatar

Can someone tell me how a food bank works?

Asked by weeveeship (4632points) May 21st, 2012

Just curious. Specific questions I have are as follows:

1. What type of personnel and equipment do you need to set up a food bank?

2. Does a food bank need to be licensed under state law? (I live in the US. I don’t need an exact citation; just a general rule would suffice)

3. Are food banks typically religious?

4. Are there any differences between religious and non-religious food banks? Are there additional challenges for either of them?

5. How do food banks get food?

6. How do food banks verify that the people who get food are actually the needy?

7. What are some typical meals that a food bank might serve?


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6 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

Are you talking about a food bank or a soup kitchen? They are non- profits. They can be as simple as a mom parking her suv in a particular place and giving away non perishable food. If you are just collecting and donating non perishable food then you don’t need a license. They are typically religious but not always. This is because churches have bulk buying power and can get greater donations. I have been to many and haven’t really noticed a difference between the church ones and the state ones. They get food from donations and food drives. Isn’t there a can of something way back there on your shelf that you don’t want?
Some verify by having you fill up a form and they check your ID. You are not allowed to go back for whatever set time they have ( four months). Others don’t verify at all, if you say you need it you get it. Typical meals? A food bank is just where you get a box of food. It can consist of a mix of canned asian stuff you never heard of, really cheap peanut butter, quite good canned red salmon, beans beans and more beans, hamburger helper, crackers, and a pile of day old bread. Sometimes a really nice day old cake. Now if you are talking about a soup kitchen, they are non profits, usually run by large organisations, and have to have all the equipment and sanitation that a restaurant does. They are usually in churches. The meal is typically sloppy joes, some kind of salad and maybe a cookie. Lots of rice, a food line served by surly volunteers, and you sit in a huge room of people that would probably stab you sooner than look at you. I gave up and resorted to stealing food. So that’s life in the world of food boxes and soup kitchens!

jca's avatar

As far as verification, another way they might verify is by having the recipients bring a “letter of need” from a local Social Services department or domestic violence shelter or other agency.

marinelife's avatar

Food banks do not serve meals. They give people food.

Here is an article on how they work.

They usually verify need by working with social service agencies.

wilma's avatar

@marinelife ‘s excellent link, is it in a nutshell.
I volunteer at our local food pantry. It is organized, and has an all volunteer staff provided by a group of local churches. They are of all denominations, and they are all Christian churches, but if there was any other religions with organizations in our area I’m sure that they would be represented as well.
We get food from, government surplus, local hunters (venison, and turkeys) local food retailers and businesses, farmers and garden growers. Mostly we get the food from donations from community members and church parishioners, food drives by organizations like the Boy and Girl Scouts. National Honor Society and other such groups.
We get fresh produce from gardeners who have too much, we get (frozen day old) baked goods from local stores.
Like @trailsillustrated said, we give a big box of food, the amount depends on how many people are in the household. It usually has canned soups, fruits and vegetables, and meats, cereal, crackers, dry pasta, and beans. Usually we have some kind of frozen meat to add to their box. Included is also personal supplies, like soap toothbrushes and paste, toilet paper, and tissues, laundry detergent, deodorant and tampons or pads for women if they want them.
We co-ordinate with other food pantries from our wider surrounding area, we share resources and information. I don’t know if we are licensed I’m not sure how that part of it works. We do get some government resources so we have some rules to follow about who can get food and how often. We have to ask for verification of identification and address. How many people live in the home , their names and ages. We make a copy of their drivers license or some other identification, we ask them if they get any other kind of assistance and approximately how much money they have coming into their household every month. We don’t do much to verify any of this information, we go mostly on trust that they are being truthful. If we find out that they have lied to us we might not help them again. Our clients can come to us for help every sixty days. We are classified as an “Emergency Food Pantry”. I’m not sure just what the differences are, but we often see the same people every two months. Sometimes we will see someone only once.
As for equipment to set up a food bank, we have quite a bit of storage space at a local church. They added on to their building for just this purpose. We have a freezer and a refrigerator for food storage as well as the use of the church secretary for information over the phone for our clients.

We try very hard to protect people’s privacy. We will only see one client at a time and ask the others to wait in a waiting area so that they don’t have to give information with anyone else present. We don’t talk about our clients or their business with anyone outside of the food pantry. I have never shared any personal information about what goes on when I’m there with my husband or anyone else.

YARNLADY's avatar

I suggest you volunteer to work in a facility for a month or two and find out how they work.

blueberry_kid's avatar

I’ve worked food banks, soup kitchens, and drop-inn centers many many times. All a food bank is is simply people donating food to a house or warehouse that delivers or gives food to those families in need depending upon the amount of children in their family, their income, if they have a job, and also if it’s truly necessary for that family. But, 11 times out of 10, most families do get all the support they need for their family. I loved working food banks. I always packed the bags and boxes that were shipped off to families.

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