Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world faced a monumental challenge: a staggering 650 million people faced hunger. The global crisis has only exacerbated this problem, pushing an additional 118 million people into hunger.
At the same time, nearly a third of the world’s food is lost or wasted at the post-harvest, retail, and consumer levels, never reaching the people who need it. Additionally, food loss and waste proves costly for producers, takes up space in landfills, and emits harmful greenhouse gases, intensifying climate change.
In the face of these challenges, food producers and suppliers are devoted to their role feeding communities around the world in an environmentally responsible way. And food banks are poised and ready to support them. Members of The Consumer Goods Forum can help improve food access while reducing food loss and waste by partnering with local food banks, thereby contributing to progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 12.3 (Halve per capita global food waste and reduce food losses by 2030). Here’s how.
Why partner with food banks?
A food bank’s specialty is partnering with producers to recover wholesome, edible surplus food and redirecting it to people facing hunger. In 2019, members of the world’s three largest food bank networks (European Food Banks Federation, Feeding America, and The Global FoodBanking Network) recovered 3.75 million metric tons of food, preventing more than 12 billion kilograms of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere via decomposition and reaching more than 66 million people.
Part of the reason food banks can accomplish such a large-scale feat is that they offer a business solution to their supply chain partners: farmers, distributors, processors, manufacturers, grocery retailers, and food service companies. These partners direct their surplus nutritious food and consumer goods to food banks, which then ensure these products are being put to good use alleviating hunger in their communities.
Many members of The Consumer Goods Forum maintain close working partnerships with individual food banks and food bank networks, but even more is possible. Here are three steps your company can take to contribute to better lives by partnering with food banks.
Three easy ways to partner with food banks
1. Create a plan for regular surplus food donation in partnership with your local food bank
While great strides are being made to reduce food loss and waste, some surplus is inevitable. When businesses anticipate surplus products, they can partner with food banks to plan for its efficient redistribution in alignment with organizational goals.
The most successful partnerships between businesses and food banks start with conversations that identify likely surplus product streams, set protocols, and build processes that allow recovery of highly valued products that require more sensitive handling. Those conversations can also lead to reduction in waste and storage costs, tax benefits, and achievement of social responsibility goals.
In many instances, producers find it beneficial to financially invest in their local food bank partners. With financing, food banks can take on more surplus food, build out their cold chains for perishable products, extend food recovery and distribution into hard-to-reach areas, and diversify the types of products they provide.
Some food banks might need support beyond funding; for example, they may need assistance sourcing more food or a particular staple. It’s also helpful for your business to proactively alert your local food bank to what surpluses are most often available for donation so they can plan for the logistics needed to support quick turnaround of that specific product.
2. Encourage your suppliers to get involved
Bring suppliers and customers into the conversation around partnering with food banks so surplus products can be recovered along the supply chain. And remember that food banks can use more than just food. If your company or partners have a surplus of packaging, shelving, or machinery, these items too may be helpful for a food bank.
One of the best examples of this kind of partnership comes from General Mills Australia, which produces an average of 10,000 fresh ricotta and spinach pasta meals a month to donate to people facing hunger through Foodbank Australia. While General Mills donates the time and labor to make the product, many of the raw ingredients and packaging for the meals are donated from the company’s suppliers. This Collaborative Supply Program provides a steady source of staple food that Foodbank Australia can then distribute regularly to communities where food insecurity has risen due to the pandemic.
3. Encourage your employees to volunteer their skills
Finally, you might consider volunteer engagement opportunities, as much of the expertise your employees provide your business would also benefit a food bank. Skills-based volunteering for a food bank could include data analytics, warehouse evaluation, business operations, or marketing and communications.
For more information
Food bank partnerships ensure that surplus food doesn’t go to waste and instead reaches individuals and families struggling with food insecurity. If your business is interested in this kind of collaboration, please contact The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), which supports community-driven solutions to alleviate hunger and prevent food loss and waste in more than 40 countries. Our team will help your company think through the best options for connecting your resources to the many people worldwide who are facing hunger.
Lisa Moon spoke at the Global Summit 2021; you can access the Executive Summary here.