Food Banks Respond to Increased Need for Food Relief

As hunger surged globally in 2023, food banks around the world responded by expanding food distribution and redirecting surplus food to get it to more people.

Data from 54 members of The Global FoodBanking Network in 45 countries found that global demand for food assistance rose significantly in 2023, with food banks responding by providing food and grocery products to 40 million people, nearly 10 million more people than in 2022.

Despite expectations that demand for food would decrease after the pandemic, food banks in the Network reached nearly the same number of people as they did in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The increased expansion of service is largely driven by the high level of demand from conflict and disasters: In all countries where GFN works, there was at least one natural disaster, and 71 percent of countries experienced civil unrest.

In 2023, food banks increased distribution by an average of 25 percent, delivering about 654 million kilograms of food and grocery products, or the equivalent of 1.7 billion meals. Much of the expansion was from food banks in emerging and developing economy countries, where hunger rates tend to be higher. These countries accounted for almost 60 percent of total Network food distribution by volume in 2023.

The data presented is collected through GFN’s Network Activity Report and represents food bank member activity from calendar year 2023.

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Food bankers have demonstrated incredible resilience in the face of these challenges, and they have been an inspiration in these difficult times.

Lisa Moon, CEO & President
The Global FoodBanking Network

Over 6 years, members served 5x more people.

The cost-of-living crisis, climate-related disasters, and other emergencies put enormous pressure on food banks. Food bankers demonstrated extraordinary resilience in the face of these challenges. 

In 2023, in all countries where GFN works, there was at least one natural disaster, and 71 percent of countries experienced civil unrest.

Over 6 years, members served 5x more people.


  • Over the last six years, GFN members provided food to five times the number of people, from serving nearly 8 million people to 40 million people in 2023.

  • Food banks in the Accelerator Program distributed 27.5 million kilograms of food and grocery products in 2023, a 50% growth over the previous year.


In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Community members receive a food package during Kechara Soup Kitchen's weekly distribution. The package contains prepared hot meals, beverages, fruit, and baked goods. (Photo: GFN/Annice Lyn)(Photo: GFN/Annice Lyn)

Fruits and vegetables made up nearly 40% of food distributed.

Recovering fresh fruits and vegetables through partnerships with farmers is an increasingly utilized way for food banks to increase the amount nutritious foods they provide.

In 2023, agriculture recovery, which prevents produce from being lost on-farm or postharvest, grew by 35 million kilograms across the Network, a 35 percent increase year over year.

Fruits and vegetables made up nearly 40% of food distributed.


  • GFN saw an increase in use of agricultural recovery to source food for school feeding programs to ensure that schoolchildren receive more nutritious food.

  • In 2022, less than 1 percent of the food that Food for All Africa recovered came directly from farms. A year later, that number was 28 percent. Much of that food was used to support Food for All Africa’s school feeding initiatives.


In Ada-West, Accra, Ghana, Leticia Ayiku-Petsi helps Ezekiel Agbovie carry part of his watermelon harvest that will be donated to Food for All Africa. (Photo: GFN/Julius Ogundiran)

An estimated 1.8 million metric tons of CO2e were avoided. 

Climate-fueled disasters like droughts, floods, earthquakes, and heat waves, are having significant impacts on our food systems and food security, threatening food production, quality, accessibility, and more.

Food banks help get food to people facing hunger, but they also reduce food loss and waste that produces up to 10 percent of the world’s harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

An estimated 1.8 million metric tons of CO2e were avoided. 


  • Members recovered and distributed 654 million kilograms of food and grocery products in 2023.

  • This helped avoid 1.8 million metric tons of CO2e – this is equal to the emission reduction of taking over 400,000 passenger vehicles off the road for one year.


In Zapotlanejo, Jalisco, Mexico, Alejandra Gamiño Vicencio, a volunteer at Bancos de Alimentos de México Zapotlanejo, organizes fresh produce in the warehouse. (Photo: GFN/Luis Antonio Rojas)

Locally led action is key.

In Lima, Peru, a cook at La Merced Soup Kitchen prepares hot meals for community members in San Juan de Lurigancho. The organization receives food from Banco de Alimentos Perú and distributes meals every day to people experiencing food insecurity. (Photo: GFN/Nicolas Villaume)

Local leaders, partners, and volunteers ensure that a community’s unique needs and cultural contexts are at the heart of food bank operations.

In 2023, members worked with 75,000 local organizations, including pantries, kitchens, and shelters, and were supported by more than 300,000 community volunteers — who donated 3.5 million hours in labor and skill-based services, making the work of food banks possible.

“Each digit and data point represents a person or family in need of sustenance and another person providing help, a meal, or food box.
The numbers reveal the activities of our shared humanity across countries and cultures and how food banks worldwide are a tangible source of hope and sign of resilience in their communities.”

Doug O’Brien
Vice President of Programs
The Global FoodBanking Network

Impact in Action

Food banking organizations across the world continue to pioneer new approaches to simultaneously address the dual challenges of hunger and food loss and waste.
In 2023, food distributed through virtual food banks was doubled, from 5 percent to 11 percent of all food distributed.

Among food banking organizations using virtual food banking, it represents about one-third of food distributed.  For example, about 10 percent of the 2.1 million kilograms of food that Scholars of Sustenance Thailand distributed in 2023 came from their innovative Bangkok Food Bank pilot and Cloud Food Bank platform.
In 2023, food banks increased distribution by an average of 25 percent, delivering about 654 million kilograms of food and grocery products, or the equivalent of 1.7 billion meals.
Foodbank Việt Nam expanded its geographical reach through eight new “mini food banks” to serve communities of high need.

In 2023, Foodbank Việt Nam served 3.9 million people, and increase of 178 percent over the previous year, distributing 19 million kilograms of food, an increase of 63 percent. At the same time, the food bank increased the quantity of fruits and vegetables distributed by 10 percent, as their expansion to smaller cities allowed them to work more closely with farmers in those parts of the country.
Food banks in developing and emerging markets accounted for almost 60 percent of total Network distribution volume in 2023.
In 2023, Food Banking Kenya increased fruit and vegetable distribution to 88 percent, from 66 percent in 2022.

Through grant funding last year, Food Banking Kenya expanded its ability to store and transport produce and built a solar dehydrator to dry out fresh produce, making it easier to store and transport while still retaining its nutrient density. Overall, Food Banking Kenya distributed 628,349 kilograms of food to 65,919 people — 80 percent of whom were children.
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