Thursday, February 5, 2015

Food Bank vs. Food Pantry

When I started with Feeding America Southwest Virginia I thought that a food bank and food pantry were the same thing. Both places store food and both give food to people in the community when they come in and visit, right? Wrong! They are very different and about the only thing that is similar is that they both deal with food and have the same mission of feeding food-insecure people.

Food Bank - Feeding America Southwest Virginia: the purpose of a food bank is to collect food in bulk via a network of hunger relief supporters then to distribute that food to the hungry through a network of dedicated partner agencies such food pantries, soup kitchens, rescue missions and children's programs throughout its service territory. A food bank is all about collecting large amounts of food and then working tirelessly to distribute that food into the greater community.

The Feeding America Southwest Virginia Salem Office building. This is where it all happens!

Feeding America Southwest Virginia-Salem Office warehouse. There is an estimated 75,000 sq. feet of space used for food storage. An impressive amount of space, but that's what is needed in order to distribute 22 million lbs. of food per year. 

Ryan Callanan, Food Resourcing Assistant at FASWVA. He works to gather food from retailers such as Kroger, Walmart, and Food Lion. These retailers are a valuable piece in the mission to feed the hungry.

Food Pantry - Presbyterian Community Center: the purpose of a food pantry is to collect food from food banks, food drives, and sometimes local retailers then they directly distribute the food to those in need. A food pantry may see anywhere from 20 - 300 people every day.  Recipients may come in to get food through a federally funded program such as SNAP; or they may be at the food pantry because, after having paid all of the bills, there isn't enough money left to buy enough food. To make up that shortfall, recipients will receive a box of food to supplement the needs of their families. This direct giving to the food-insecure is the main thing that separates a food bank from a food pantry. Instead of FASWVA opening up its doors everyday for people to come in and receive food they distribute it around a 26 county area to food pantries. This distribution method gets more food to more people over a wide geographic area.  Otherwise, everyone would have to drive (if they could) to Salem or Abingdon every day to get the food they need.

Presbyterian Community Center (PCC) is a partner agency. They operate a food pantry and have educational programs for students of all ages. They assist families and individuals living in the eastern quadrants of Roanoke City, eastern Roanoke County and the Town of Vinton. 

This is the food pantry at the Presbyterian Community Center. As you can see they have a much smaller amount of food than the FASWVA warehouse but are still able to serve a large amount of people.

I always used the words food bank and food pantry interchangeably because I honestly thought that they were the same thing because they both give food to the hungry. Indeed, they both feed the hungry but the way in which they go about it is very different. 

This difference and collaboration is the core strength in the Feeding America network.  It provides a nation-wide distribution system that efficiently moves donated, salvaged and purchased product to millions of food-insecure people every day.  From every day need to disaster level events - the Food Bank and its partner Food Pantries are always working together to fight hunger wherever it may be.

To learn more about food banks and food pantries please visit Feeding America Southwest Virginia website.

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