What Is A Food Bank


A food bank, like Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to end hunger in the communities we serve. We do this through three primary ways:

  • Food distribution
  • Promotion of government emergency food programs like FoodShare
  • Help "mobilize the public" into taking action to help end hunger

Food Distribution

Food banks are primarily known for our ability to secure, store, and distribute food to people facing hunger. We do this by acting like food storage and distribution depots for smaller front line agencies. With the exception of our mobile pantries, we do not give out food directly to people struggling with hunger.

Food usually comes from various sources in the food industry, like grocery stores and wholesalers that have thousands of pounds of food to give away - food that could otherwise be thrown away.

Food banks, like Second Harvest, are found in most larger communities and rely on donors and volunteers to carry out day-to-day operations. 

Promotion of Government Programs

The most efficient way to bring hunger-relief to those facing hunger is through the federal government's S.N.A.P. (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) - formerly known as the food stamp program. In Wisconsin SNAP is known as FoodShare. Our role is to help the people in our service territory understand the benefits and eligibility requirements of the program. We also provide application and renewal assistance. 

Mobilize The Public

Through a variety of communication channels (web, social media, TV, radio, newspaper, etc.), community presentations, and events we educate the public about hunger in our community and hopefully motivate them to take action and join our mission of ending hunger in our community.

The Next Phase of Hunger-Relief

Our newest way to help end hunger is by working with the healthcare community to identify patients who may be facing food insecurity through our HungerCare Coalition. Many illnesses can have their root cause in a lack of access to adequate healthy and nutritious food. One of the goals of the coalition is to make sure the healthcare community knows the health impacts of food insecurity and has access to informaiton about emergency food resources they can pass along to their patients.

Food Bank vs. Food Pantry

A food bank is the storehouse for millions of pounds of food and other products that go out to the community. A food pantry functions as the arms that reach out to that community directly. One way to help explain how a food bank works is to think about a large, national retailer. If you want to get something from this retailer you go to the retail stores at your local shopping area; you would not go to their large distribution warehouses. For food banks, we are the large distribution warehouses and our partner agencies are the locations you would go to to get the help you need.


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