What roles do food banks and pantries play in our food system?
A food bank is the storehouse for millions of pounds of food and other products that go out to the community. Food pantries function as the arms that directly reach out to the community1 , and they are an important source of emergency food for the working poor.
There are many public and private food pantries, emergency kitchens, food banks, food rescue organizations, and other food assistance programs in Idaho. These constitute Idaho’s emergency food assistance system.
- In 1980 there were 200 food banks in the United States; today there are over 40,000 food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens2. In Idaho there are an estimated 160 food pantries6.
- The Idaho Food Bank operates three large distribution facilities in Lewiston, Pocatello, and Boise that serve 189 community partners in 39 counties3. They rely on donors and 20,388 volunteers to carry out day-to-day operations.
- In 2015, the Idaho Foodbank distributed 16.1 million pounds of food to an average of 163,679 people per month, enough food to provide 13.4 million meals3.
- Idaho faces a $121,650,000 “meal gap,” which represents the amount of money that our food-insecure residents would need to make up the difference between the amount of food they can afford and the amount of food they actually need4. Food banks and food pantries help fill the gap.
- In a national survey of food pantry clients5:
- 69 % had to choose between food and utilities
- 66 % had to choose between food and medical care
- 37 % had to choose between food and education