Advancing Food Banks

How GFN Helps Food Banks Find Funding: Q&A with Manuel García Mendoza

Manuel García Mendoza joined The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) in 2023 and quickly became a key resource for member food banks looking for ways to diversify the funding for their programs. Known for his positive energy and enthusiasm for helping food banks achieve their goals, García came to GFN after working at member Bancos de Alimentos Mexico (BAMX) for almost seven years, in roles ranging from program officer to social investment manager to fundraiser.

Recently, García spent some time with us to explain how he and GFN help food banks improve their ability to find funding so that they can serve even more people in more communities.

GFN: Why do you work in food banking?

Manuel Garcia: Part of my essence as a human being is to help. And I have had a social approach since I was a kid. I think that influences the way I am and my energy and interest to always do my best. One of my main missions is to contribute, because I’m part of a community, I’m part of a country, a part of a region and the world.

I think I’m going to be working in food security and nutrition for many years. The first thing a human being needs is to eat, to have the right to food access. If there is no food—if someone is not fed—then nothing else can happen in their development.

What is your role at GFN?

My position was new to GFN based on feedback from our members, who were looking for technical assistance in fundraising to implement their programs.

I came in to assist our members in the Latin America region in identifying and responding to calls for proposals. I’d help them find the right funding opportunities and help strengthen their submissions. And by doing this, I helped our members build their fundraising skills.

Then, as of July 2023, my position went global. I started helping our food bank members in Africa and Asia Pacific, too.

What do you do on a normal work day?

One of my key activities is searching for and identifying funding opportunities, calls for proposals—searching everywhere with different tools—so I can find funding for food bank programs. I do that almost every day.

Once I identify an opportunity, I read the guidelines to make sure we have a member eligible to apply. If it looks like a good fit, I organize all the necessary information into an executive document and send it to the member, encouraging them to apply.

If they are interested in applying, then they will start working on the proposal draft, and they will send it to me later so I can review it. That’s when I give them feedback, recommendations, and suggestions about how to strengthen the proposal. I help them keep track of the deadlines. I’m here for the food banks, to help them increase their chances that the proposal will succeed.

Our reason for being is our members, food banks in more than 50 countries.

Your professional focus has moved from national to regional to international. What have you learned as you’ve increased the number of countries you’ve worked in?

You know, as a food banker, working at GFN is like the dream job. It really is for many food bankers. We are interested in learning more about other countries and learning how other food banks on other continents work.

I’ve been in this worldwide position for about a year now. And I have seen that all of our members, all the food banks in the world, they face almost the same problems, the same challenges. Like fundraising—how to create a better elevator pitch—or what to do with a lot of food surplus, especially when it’s only one type of food, like tons of tomatoes. Or social management within a community and how to follow up with all the community agencies served by the food bank. So that’s something interesting. All our members, all the food banks have the same essence. They are like heroes, recovering surplus from all the supply chain and then redistributing all this food.

But while our members all over the world might experience the same kind of challenges and needs, there are social, political, and cultural differences.

Can you share an example of a food bank you’ve worked with that is doing great work right now?

They’re all doing great work. They do an amazing job, all of our members.

I recently visited Colombia, where our member ABACO is working with the Wayuu community in La Guajira. In their Banco de Hilos (Thread Bank) project, they’re working with women who are making artisanal backpacks and helping them get fair payment for them. With GFN funding, they’re making sure women have the materials and tools they need to create the backpacks.

Another that comes to mind is Banco de Alimentos Quito. They’re really good at drafting proposals to apply for funding opportunities. I just assisted them in submitting a proposal to the Embassy of Australia in Chile earlier this year, and they received approval for USD $18,000 to purchase materials to enhance their food storage and transportation.

It’s amazing when a food bank receives an approval on its proposal. It makes me really happy and I celebrate those moments, because it means they are going to receive funding that will be reflected in positive changes in their communities.

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