Mar. 19 – Food Banking


Food Banking

I spent the past week in the warm climate of Houston, Texas. I was invited to the Food Bank Leadership Institute Conference held by the Global FoodBanking Network.

Food bank leaders from 33 countries came together to share innovative approaches to hunger prevention and food sharing including Columbia, South Korea, Singapore, China, the U.K., Austria and Russia. Hearing an international perspective on food security was eye-opening and inspiring.

The conference was held at the Houston Food Bank. Houston is North America’s largest food bank and I have to tell you, seeing it in person leaves little doubt of that. Their facility houses meeting and conference rooms along with office space, a 1,400-sq.-ft commercial kitchen, 2,000-sq.-ft. sortation area, 22 loading docks, a warehouse the size of Costco and a food bank that looks like a grocery store. It was truly amazing to see the size and the fine balance between food bank, food distribution centre, meal preparation and conference centre.

I learned a great deal about food banking—the global term for those who run food banks. The trend of persons served in each country is up and as a result, food bankers have to be extremely creative in sourcing food, volunteers and money. One solution from the Australian food banks particularly stood out to me. They formed partnerships with producers, manufacturers and packaging companies to produce their own pasta and pasta sauce to distribute through their food banks. Once a month the manufacturers set up their whole production line and run an 8-hour shift with staff volunteers to create and bottle the pasta sauce on behalf of the food banks in Australia at no cost.

Also in attendance were global donors from large multi-national companies like General Mills. We heard that they are happy to support food banks globally and are proud of the work that is being done by food bankers to help feed the hungry. Much of the event was focused on provision and distribution of food—as that is the primary goal of most food banks—but I would have liked to see an increase in attention on long-term solutions to hunger and poverty: topics like education, job training and advocacy.

After learning so much about food banking I feel confident we at Winnipeg Harvest are set on a good path and we are focused on the right things. Our primary goal remains to be collecting food on behalf of hungry Manitobans and ensuring that food is shared with the people who need it.