Chicago, IL, USA (July 7, 2021) – Today, The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) announced that food banks in 44 countries served 40 million people in 2020, a 132 percent increase over service in 2019. The data is part of GFN’s annual Network survey, which this year includes information about how GFN-supported food banks around the world responded to COVID-19.
The significant increase in people accessing food banks reflects the toll of the pandemic. As food requests rose from cut-off or quarantined communities, food banks rapidly deployed their transport, inventory, and logistics infrastructures to assist people who were isolated due to closed schools and public support agencies or overwhelmed health systems.
“Food banks have served as a lifeline for millions of people during the health crisis,” said Lisa Moon, president and CEO of The Global FoodBanking Network. “When the pandemic rattled economies and prevented access to food, food banks responded where existing infrastructure failed. They proved agile and resourceful, providing emergency relief and hope to their communities.”
African food banks, which served 169 percent more people than the year before, reported the highest increase in people served globally, followed by food banks in Latin America, which served 157 percent more people than in 2019.
Many food banks embraced mass distribution through congregate feeding sites and meal kit deliveries as they sought to reach the most people possible. More than half of the people served by GFN partner food banks in 2020 were women and girls.
Children were especially vulnerable during lockdowns and movement restrictions. In response to widespread school closures, the majority of GFN partner food banks that operated or supported feeding programs for school-age children (including school lunches, after-school snacks, and backpack programs) quickly pivoted to alternative models, such as providing food directly to families or organizing distribution events at schools and daycare centers.
As COVID-19 disrupted the global food supply chain, food banks saw a shift in the sources of donated products. According to the survey, food banks experienced a tremendous drop in donations from food services, restaurants, hotels, grocers, and markets. At the same time, food donations from the agricultural sector nearly doubled in 2020, partly because farms did not have the informal labor force needed for harvest.
This year promises to be another challenging year for food banks. In the GFN survey, food banks in many countries reported deep concern over slow vaccine rollouts, additional waves of infections, economic recovery and recession, and staff and volunteer burnout.
“COVID-19 has made the hunger crisis even more urgent,” said Moon. “Now more than ever, it is important that governments, businesses, and other community leaders partner with food banks, which are community assets that work to ensure all people have access to food.”
About The Global FoodBanking Network:The Global FoodBanking Network supports community-driven solutions to alleviate hunger in more than 40 countries. While millions struggle to access enough safe and nutritious food, nearly a third of all food produced is lost or wasted. We’re changing that. We believe food banks directed by local leaders are key to achieving Zero Hunger and building resilient food systems. For more information, visit foodbanking.org.
Nina Rabinovitch Blecker
Vice President, Strategic Communications