What is Technical Assistance? Q&A with GFN’s Gaby Kafarhire and Paula Moreno
March 6, 2023
By Elizabeth Black
At The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), we often talk about the importance of technical assistance and its role in strengthening food banks all over the world. But what is technical assistance, and why is it important? Read on to learn the answers to those questions and more—with insights on the unique ways GFN provides technical assistance to food banks globally from Gabriela Kafarhire (GFN’s Middle East and Africa associate program director) and Paula Andrea Moreno (GFN’s Latin America associate program director).
What is technical assistance?
Our mission is to ensure food banks have the resources they need to feed their communities and reduce food loss and waste. One of the ways we do this is by providing technical assistance—a variety of evidence-based, culturally-specific strategies and tools that strengthen food banks’ operations, increase their capacity to serve communities, and improve the quality of their services. In other words, technical assistance helps food banks become more effective, efficient, and proactive.
What are some examples of technical assistance?
Technical assistance can take a lot of different forms, and it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one food bank may not work for another, so our teams work closely with local leaders and organizations to ensure that food banks are getting what they need at that moment in time. Some examples of technical assistance include:
Guidance in areas such as food safety, quality control, and nutrition
Support in the design and follow-up of projects developed with GFN funds
Assistance with the development of food bank mission processes and strategic planning
Training on operational processes like inventory management or new technology
Facilitation of knowledge sharing and learning networks between GFN food bank members
Assistance with food bank governance and leadership
Support with maintaining relationships with community agencies and engaging boards of directors
One-on-one technical assistance meetings with a dedicated member of the GFN field services or another relevant team member
What makes technical assistance most effective?
As a global network of food banks, GFN provides measurable technical assistance to all members, regardless of their size or capacity. This also ensures that members are united in working toward regional goals, which contribute to GFN’s global goals of reducing hunger and food loss and waste.
GFN staff like Paula Andrea Moreno and Gabriela Kafarhire play a crucial role in these efforts: they provide technical assistance to food banks in their region on issues related to GFN-funded projects, strategic planning, and social management. As a result, they know a thing or two about what makes technical assistance most effective.
According to Paula Andrea Moreno, what makes technical assistance most effective is putting yourself in the shoes of the food bank.
“Understanding the context in which the food bank operates, the socioeconomic conditions of its country, the capacity of the food bank, the team members in place, and the opportunities the food banks have for growth is critical for us to effectively support food banks in meeting their goals,” Moreno said.
Gabriela Kafarhire echoes this sentiment and emphasizes that technical assistance is an art, not a science.
“Technical assistance looks different region by region, and that’s normal and important,” said Kafarhire. “We are always cognizant of the cultural context and of not pressuring a food bank to take our technical assistance as a directive. The country-specific advice we give is always based on evidence and best practices, but sometimes the food bank might prefer a different approach that they believe could work better, and we honor that.”
Gaby Kafarhire (left), GFN's Middle East and Africa associate program director, stands with leaders from Food For All Africa in their warehouse in Accra, Ghana. (Photo: Food For All Africa)
Why is technical assistance so important?
The phrase “technical assistance” may seem complex or even dry to some, but its ability to strengthen food banks and improve more people’s lives makes it one of the most exciting aspects of GFN’s work.
According to Kafarhire, technical assistance is powerful because it’s fundamentally about creating innovative solutions and modalities to execute food banking effectively. “It’s amazing to see what community leaders can do when they have the resources, they need to make decisions and create solutions,” she said. “The way food banks have adapted and continue to adapt to the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, natural disasters, and other climate-related events because of tailored technical assistance makes a huge difference for the communities we work with.”
Moreno is most excited by GFN’s technical assistance work because it enables communities to reduce hunger while improving food systems. “Strengthening the work of food banks through technical assistance helps improve people’s lives, the food system, and the health of the planet,” she said.
Paula Moreno (right), GFN’s Latin America associate program director, recovers surplus produce from a farm alongside staff from Fundación SACIAR in Colombia. (Photo: The Global FoodBanking Network)