All Foods Fit: Food Banks Canada Statement on the Types of Food Distributed by Food Banks

August 21, 2014

In response to recent media attention to the types of food distributed by food banks in Canada, Food Banks Canada would like to offer a few words of clarity on the issue.

As the national organization supporting food banks across the country, we actively work to acquire and share a diverse array of essential, safe, quality food. We accept all offers of food that is safe and of a high quality.

Canadian food banks share 200 million lbs of food per year with individuals and families in their communities, coming to the aid of 830,000 people each and every month. Our network partners with food producers, manufacturers and retailers, each of whom is an important source of food and funds to ensure that food banks can continue to provide food to those in need.

Food banks would not exist without the support of their communities – individual donors, community associations, school groups and many others make food banks possible. And thanks to this wide-ranging support, the food you see in a food bank box is the same food you see in grocery carts – items like pasta and sauce, fresh fruit and vegetables, breakfast cereals, and even cookies and cake.

About Food Banks Canada

Food Banks Canada supports a unique network of over 3,000 food-related organizations in every province and territory, that assists more than 800,000 Canadians each month. Together our network shares over 200 million pounds of essential, safe, quality food annually, provides social programs that help to foster self-sufficiency, and advocates for policy change that will help create a Canada where no one goes hungry.

Relieving hunger today. Preventing hunger tomorrow.

Contact:
Shawn Pegg
Food Banks Canada
shawn@foodbankscanada.ca
(416) 312-0520

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Backgrounder

Frequently Asked Questions about Food Banks Canada and Food Banks

Q: What is Food Banks Canada?

A: Food Banks Canada supports a unique network of over 3,000 food-related organizations in every province and territory, that assists more than 800,000 Canadians each month. Together our network shares over 200 million pounds of essential, safe, quality food annually, provides social programs that help to foster self-sufficiency, and advocates for policy change that will help create a Canada where no one goes hungry.

Q: What is Food Banks Canada’s Role in Accessing Needed Food (NFSS)?

A: Food Banks Canada has developed the National Food Sharing System (NFSS), a national food acquisition and distribution system that operates in partnership with provincial food bank associations, local food banks and other charitable food organizations. Through the NFSS, Food Banks Canada distributes a range of foods from a number of donors. These foods include pasta and sauce, soups and stews, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, dairy and egg products, breakfast cereal, juice and other drinks, crackers and cookies. The NFSS also distributes non-food items like diapers, dish soap, and bathroom tissue.

Q: What Types of Food are Provided by Food Banks?

A: Each and every food bank is an independent organization guided by a board of directors, which makes decisions about what safe, quality food to distribute in its community. Food banks depend on donations for the majority of what they are able to offer; about 25% of the food distributed by food banks is purchased, and purchases tend to fill the gaps in donations, particularly with fresh foods like meat, dairy and eggs.

  • 62% of food distributed by food banks consists of non-perishable items like pasta and sauce, breakfast cereal, rice, and canned fruits and vegetables.
  • 38% of food distributed by food banks consists of perishable items like milk, eggs, meat and fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables.

Q: Does Food Banks Canada Have a Policy on What Foods Are Accepted?

A: Food Banks Canada is open to all types of safe, quality food. We work closely with our network to distribute the food we receive to where it is needed and where it can be used.

Q: What Types of Food do Food Banks Ask For?

A: Most food banks have a “top ten list” of items that go into every food parcel. Examples of “top ten” foods include the following:

  • peanut butter
  • canned fruits and vegetables
  • dried pasta and tomato sauce
  • lentils and beans
  • powdered, canned or tetra-pak cartons of milk
  • baby formula and baby food
  • canned fish and meat
  • cans of soup or hearty stew
  • macaroni and cheese

Q: What Guides Food Banks in Creating a Food Hamper?

A: Most food banks follow Canada’s Food Guide, as well as client feedback, in selecting the foods that go into a food hamper. They look for variety and balance, and they provide a different balance of foods for different family types, for example families with young children.

Many smaller food banks have a grocery store distribution method, where people are able to select a certain number of various types of foods, rather than receiving a pre-packed box of goods.

Q: Do Food Banks Only Distribute Food?

A: Canadian food banks have evolved to do a lot more than charitable food:

  • 52% offer additional food-focused programming like community kitchens, community gardens and nutrition education.
  • 39% offer skill-building programs like education and training, help with budgeting and help finding employment.
  • 37% offer broad social service programs like child care, programs for expecting or new moms and emergency shelter.
  • 53% work closely with partner agencies and provide referrals to needed services.

Q: What is the Need for Food Banks in Canada?

A: Each and every month, 830,000 Canadians – 37% of them children – access a food bank. For more information, please see the Food Banks Canada HungerCount 2013 report.

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