Food banks are early warning systems for emerging food crises, but also a key solution: global problems

Community members in Sowripalayam, on the outskirts of Coimbatore, receive a meal from No Food Waste, a GFN-supported food bank in India. Credit: World Network of Food Banks/Narayana Swamy Subbaraman
  • Opinion by Lisa Luna (chicago usa)
  • Inter Press Service

Add the widespread effects of climate change to the mix, and the result is what the United Nations calls a “perfect storm” that puts a fifth of the world’s population (up to 1.7 billion people) at risk of falling into poverty and hunger.

This number feels so large that it is almost inconceivable, if not possible to accept. And, of course, the growing global food crisis will not affect everyone equally.

Recent comments from food bank leaders around the world already echo the reality ahead. Because food banks, especially in emerging and developing markets, are the first (or sometimes only) port of call for those facing hunger, they offer a window into understanding the full scope of the looming food crisis. : an early warning system of tensions in our food systems.

The Global Network of Food Banks works with member food banks in 44 countries, with many in Africa, Asia and Latin America already reporting that higher food prices are contributing to a surge in demand for food assistance from emergency.

For example, one food bank partner in Ecuador, Banco de Alimentos Quito, reported a 50 percent increase in demand for services, while another partner, India Food Banking Network, warned that the number of people requesting food had risen. has recently doubled.

If more is not done, and quickly, these figures will be just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, while demand for many food banks increases, the supplies donated to food banks often decrease.

These food banks in Ecuador and India, and others across the Network, are reporting declines in product donations of up to 50 percent. Banco de Alimentos Quito and Banco de Alimentos Honduras, which regularly retrieve fresh produce directly from farmers for distribution to hungry people, are reporting that planting schedules have been canceled because farmers are unable to obtain key inputs.

In short, there are fewer products available to donate due to increased need and smaller, less reliable returns.

With the recent World Economic Forum in Davos and the G7 Summit, there are already calls for governments and business leaders to invest more in hunger relief and food aid. This is a crucial first step, but the investment will only be as effective as the implementation mechanisms put in place to deliver them.

This is also where food banks can intervene effectively and immediately. Because food banks address community food needs even in less precarious times, they are already well positioned to respond to crises by scaling up in times of scarcity and distributing food when conventional supply chains are undermined.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already a case in point, with global food banks serving 40 million people in 2020, a 132 percent increase from the previous year. And because food banks are community-based and community-led, they can understand and adapt to local needs quite quickly, acting as a frontline response when a crisis strikes.

Responses to the global hunger crisis must include recognition of the critical role that food banks play. They will intensify and will play a crucial role in meeting the sharp increase in demand for food aid in the coming months.

However, if the global community steps forward and further supports the value of these assets, the impact of food banks could be enormous. And a massive response is exactly what this looming crisis will require.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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