The first food bank in the U.S., St. Mary’s, was established in 1967 in Arizona.
The founder, John van Hengel, used to volunteer serving meals when he had the thought to do even more for his community.
He heard one of the mothers at St. Vincent DePaul where he helped hand out meals say that she was only able to provide food for her children by searching through dumpsters at grocery stores and taking them to soup kitchens for free meals.
This drove him to connect with others in the community to work out a system where those who had surplus foods and funds could donate them, and those that needed help could receive it. Companies and community residents began to take part and van Hengel also went to his local parish, St. Mary’s Basilica, in order to see how the network could be expanded. The parish offered startup funding and a building to operate from, and the concept took off. It also widened to other neighborhoods that heard of the idea and eventually the food bank system spread on a global level.
The nonprofit organization St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance still remains today, and now is one of the biggest in the U.S. There are international food bank systems throughout the world, but it is estimated that at least 1 in 8 people do not have enough food to eat.
To search for a local food bank in the U.S. Feeding America provides locations and virtual food drives. They offer state statistics regarding poverty and food insecurity rates, also searchable on a map.
The World Food Programme accepts donations and provides resources about hunger issues worldwide.
Showing climate vulnerabilities and other pressing problems that affect the spread of hunger, their interactive hunger map provides snapshots of countries and shows how devastating the numbers of undernourished actually are around the world.
Food banks are a smart way to utilize food waste, and a perfect way to give to a community any time of the year. Whether with donations of time, clothing, non-perishables or financial support, every portion is appreciated, and greatly needed.
All images are from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.
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