In the face of further economic turmoil and supply chain disruptions, food banks once again played a pivotal role in providing emergency food assistance—at a level 128 percent higher than before the pandemic.
The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) announced that food banks in 44 countries served 39 million people in 2021, demonstrating that the need for food assistance is continuing at high levels in the face of rising food prices and disrupted supply chains.
The data is part of GFN’s annual Network survey, and this year’s responses emphasise the importance of a strong network of food banks in times of crisis.
“Communities around the world are facing hunger at unprecedented rates,” said Lisa Moon, president and CEO of The Global FoodBanking Network. “Consistently, food banks are stepping up and using their unique expertise to connect millions of people to nutritious food.”
The 39 million people who sought emergency food assistance is a 128 percent increase over 2019 pre-COVID levels of service. Additionally, about 54 percent of people were served regularly for more than three months during 2021 while 44 percent of people served visited food banks occasionally, temporarily, or for the first time due to a shift in economic circumstances.
More than three quarters of people served by GFN member food banks live in emerging and developing market economies. Most of the people who visited GFN member food banks in 2021—about 24 million—live in Asia and Oceania. Another 8.8 million food bank visitors are from Latin America. Children ages 17 and under comprised more than a third of the total people served.
Food banks, on average, distributed 57 percent more food and grocery products than the previous year, despite sourcing challenges brought on by breakdowns in supply chains and other factors. The most commonly distributed products are fruits and vegetables—constituting 30 percent of what an average food bank provides.
While need for hunger relief has been unprecedented, so has the generosity and determination of people partnering within the Network. Nearly 317 000 people volunteered with GFN partner food banks, a 14 percent increase over 2020, providing more than 8 million hours of support.
2022 is already proving to be another challenging year for people facing hunger and food insecurity, with the Ukraine invasion compounding the continuing effects of the pandemic and leading to further rises in food prices. But food banks will continue to respond quickly and efficiently in the face of crises, leaning on the experiences of the past few years.
“Unfortunately, we are likely on the precipice of a global hunger crisis,” said Moon. “Food banks will be central to the response. The lessons learned during the pandemic have strengthened the Network, better equipping us to provide ongoing services to children, individuals, and families in vulnerable situations.”