Ryan Whitton, Executive Director of Granite Falls Food Bank, knows what it is like to go hungry. As a young child, Whitton grew up in Granite Falls, WA in a home riddled with neglect, drug abuse, and a notable lack of food on the table. Whitton describes his childhood, “I had no intention of providing for others, because I couldn’t even provide for myself and those around me couldn’t provide for me. You get to a point where you’re just surviving.”
At 22 years old, Whitton feels very different. His desire to help others going through similar hardships motivated him to apply to take charge of the food bank. Now, Whitton runs the non-profit organization along with three paid employees and a host of volunteers.
The Granite Falls Food Bank is just one example of a food bank making a tremendous difference to its community. Learn more about food banks, food drives, and the many ways they help people.
What Are Food Banks?
Typically, a food bank acts as a behind-the-scenes resource. A food bank will obtain or secure food and store it until it is ready for distribution. The food collected is often distributed directly by food pantries, mobile food pantries, or charitable events. These organizations and events target low-income individuals and families — or people that simply do not have enough money to regularly put food on the table.
Think of food banks as a highly organized and supportive public system, much like Medicare. While Medicare is a government-based program that offers healthcare to seniors ages 65 and up and to those with applicable disabilities, food banks are another nationwide initiative that aims to ultimately improve the well-being and health of the American people.
How exactly do food banks work? These organizations receive food donations from grocery stores, retailers, and nearby restaurants. Food banks take the appropriate measures to safely store food donations, including perishable foods and non-perishable foods. From there, food banks may distribute foods directly onsite or ship foods to nearby food pantries and food drives.
What Are Food Drives?
A food drive is an active campaign to collect food donations for food banks and food pantries. Instead of donating money or funds directly, food drives ask participants to donate foods. Food drives may focus on non-perishable items only, like canned goods, or accept a broader range of food donations, including fresh foods.
Food shortages are significantly more common than you might think. In fact, average food crops must grow in spite of the presence of 3,000 nematode species, 10,000 plant-eating bugs and insects, and 30,000 invasive weed species.
How Can You Benefit?
While the 40-hour workweek is a long-established norm — one that was laid out over 80 years ago by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 — for many, it is not enough to reliably put food on the table. According to DoSomething.org, as many as 41.9 million U.S. adults and children experience food insecurity. Food insecurity means that these households do not have a dependable or reliable source for their next meal.
Thankfully, food banks and food drives go a long way to address food insecurity and hunger. In 2020, food banks donated 3.6 billion meals to low-income and food-insecure households, Feeding America reveals. Food banks help food-insecure households put food on the table without spending funds needed for rent, utilities, and other bills. Often, it is less expensive for those from privileged households to donate canned goods to food drives or volunteer for a food bank than it is for them to cut a check to these organizations every month or every few months.
Food banks and food drives make an incredible difference to communities large and small. The average person can give back by volunteering for a food bank or donating food in lieu of donating money, while those in need get reliable, healthy meals on the table thanks to their efforts.