The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) expands food banking around the world.

November 12, 2014

New food banks launched in Panama City, Panama, and Bangalore, India.

Sue Canepa, Global FoodBanking Network

At its most basic level, food banking is a smart yet simple concept: get food from where it is plentiful to where it is needed. Food banks do that by rescuing safe and nutritious surplus food that would otherwise be wasted and distributing it to hungry people.

While simple in theory, opening a food bank is no small undertaking. Food banks have multiple stakeholders, require capital and resources, and demand long-term planning. In addition, the food banking model—originated in the US—must be adapted to work within a country’s cultural, geographical and political structures.

The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), an international non-profit headquartered in the US, is dedicated to spreading food banking throughout the world. Currently, GFN works in 30 countries outside the US.

“Regardless of a country’s experience or resources, we can help,” said Jeff Klein, GFN’s President and CEO.  “We provide education and training, offer on-the-ground assistance, and we make connections with global organizations that have resources to share with food banks on a local level.”

Two New Food Banks Launched

On World Food Day 2014 (October 16), two new food banks opened with the support of GFN. In India, the first food bank outside of the Delhi metro area opened in Bangalore, and the first food bank in Panama opened in Panama City.

Banco de Alimentos Panama – Unfortunately, in this country of relative affluence, four out of ten people live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger. To change this, a group of Panamanian businessmen allied with the Catholic Church to create a food bank. They contacted the GFN network food bank in Costa Rica to learn from their success. In operation for two years, Banco de Alimentos Costa Rica distributes 40,000 meals daily to hungry people in that country. They were willing to share their experiences, but they also referred the Panamanians to GFN for broader and deeper technical assistance.

In a little less than one year, the food bank went from development to launch. Since the official opening on World Food Day, the food bank has been approaching potential donors and supporters. Father Miguel Angel Ciaurriz, in attendance at the opening, appealed to the public conscience to contribute what they can to reduce hunger among thousands of Panamanians who live in poverty. “Poverty dehumanizes people,” he said.

Courtesy: Global FoodBanking Network

Courtesy: Global FoodBanking Network

The Bangalore Food Bank – Officially named “Feeding Bangalore Foundation,” the food bank became a reality thanks in large part to GFN’s global partner Griffith Laboratories. The new food bank is part of the India FoodBanking Network (IFBN), the GFN member in India.

The new food bank is a great example of how introductions and connections can make a huge impact. The Bangalore Food Bank is a direct outcome of a conversation between Shyam Mohan, president of Griffith Laboratories India – Middle East, and GFN’s Jeff Klein. Inspired by the discussion about food banking as a solution to India’s hunger problem, Shyam and Griffith’s Vice Chairman Brian Griffith decided to get involved – and they did so whole-heartedly. In fact, Griffith took a leadership role in the development process, shared countless volunteer hours and even donated space in their Bangalore facility to house the food bank.

Now that the Bangalore Food Bank is established, the development team is working to build city-wide awareness, capture surplus food, improve delivery processes and create new programs to help hungry people.

“We are working closely with GFN to reinforce global best practices for food bank creation and development,” said Griffith’s Shyam Mohan. “Our team wants this to be a catalyst, to spur on the movement to end hunger and see more food banks established across India through this design and concept.”

How to Establish a Food Bank

GFN provides local food bank development teams with education, training and mentoring, and connections to global supporters, among other forms of support. Information about food banks and where GFN works can be found on GFN’s website. A variety of Toolkits are available for food bankers. For those thinking of starting a food bank, a good starting point is the Feasibility Analysis: Starting a Food Bank System Toolkit.