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Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and hunger relief organization Feeding America have issued a report on the critical contribution food retailers make to their local communities by supporting local food banks. The collaborative study, Decades of Donations: The 2012 Survey of the Food Retail Industry’s Support of Food Banks, found that U.S. grocery stores are the top donation stream for Feeding America’s network of food banks.
“More than 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, are at risk of hunger,” noted Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Chicago-based Feeding America. “Families across the country are struggling to make ends meet, there is the possibility of billions of dollars in cuts to the SNAP program, and food banks are working harder than ever to serve the needs of hungry families in their communities. This is why the substantial donations we receive from the nation’s food retailers are so critically important in helping us provide food to nearly 6 million Americans each week.”
According to Feeding America, food banks saw a 46 percent uptick in clients between 2006 and 2010. In line with this statistic, 99 percent of retailers who responded to the survey said they support a food bank through food donations. More than one-fifth (21 percent) of retailers said they gave more than 1 million pounds of food, and more than one-third (36 percent) donated at least 100,000 pounds. Reporting in 2012 on contributions made the previous year, 96 percent of retailers donated cash to food banks. Of those who gave cash, 26 percent contributed more than $100,000 in 2011. Cash contributions to food banks boost their ability to supplement such product categories as fresh meat, where donations don’t meet the demand.
“Our 2012 consumer trends research showcased how U.S. consumers have adapted to living with less, but many American families struggle with severe economic restrictions that limit their food options,” said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “Grocery stores and supermarkets … partner effectively with local food banks, providing families in need with affordable, quality nutritious food.”
The report includes product categories, supply challenges that food retailers and Feeding America are working to resolve, and other ways that food retailers are assisting food banks, among them food drives, scannable coupons that help local food banks, and supplying equipment to expand and enhance a food bank’s network.
“Food retailers have a longstanding tradition of being actively involved in their respective communities,” added Sarasin. “By assisting food banks and enabling their customers to join in that effort, food retailers extend the reach of that neighborhood support to those in need of basic nutritional sustenance.”