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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The nation's food banks increasingly rely on food retailer contributions to address growing hunger needs, according to a new study from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).
The report, Survey of Supermarkets and Food Banks, 2005, coincides with the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey revealing that more than 38 million Americans -- including nearly 14 million children -- are at risk of hunger.
"In this time of thanks and holiday giving, food retailers urge Americans to join with us in helping the millions of less fortunate, hungry American families," said Tim Hammonds, FMI president and c.e.o. "Supermarkets are especially well-equipped to help food banks provide fresh, nutritious, high-protein food to help balance the diets of needy families."
Supermarkets are also answering the call for more cash donations, which are needed to fill product gaps and to cover the costs of transportation and storage. "Food retailers lead hunger relief efforts in communities across America and are increasing the generosity they've shown for more than 25 years," said Robert H. Forney, president and c.e.o. of America's Second Harvest -- The Nation's Food Bank Network, which represents more than 200 food banks in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. "By keeping our food bank supply robust, we will bring hope to hungry Americans this season."
Nearly one-quarter of the supermarkets surveyed said each year they donate a million or more pounds of food -- enough for at least 800,000 meals. More than half (53 percent) donate at least 100,000 pounds of food annually. Monetary donations are increasing as well. Between 2003 and 2004, more than four in 10 retailers increased their cash donations.
Donations today stretch across all product categories and every supermarket aisle, but general grocery products and dry goods continue to be the largest donation segment. Almost nine out of 10 supermarket respondents (88 percent) report donating these items.
Perishable contributions are growing, particularly as food banks seek more protein- and nutrient-rich foods. These include baked goods (71 percent), produce (51 percent), dairy products (44 percent), deli items (33 percent) and fresh meat (33 percent).
Frozen foods are an increasingly important category as food banks improve refrigeration and storage capacities -- 42 percent of supermarkets now regularly donate these products.
Retailers are expanding nonfood support as well, particularly in the areas of food transportation, warehouse construction, food safety education, and in-store promotions such as food drives and customer fundraisers, which are typically launched with a generous retailer donation. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the companies surveyed contribute at least one of these services.
The data for Survey of Supermarkets and Food Banks, 2005, are based on a survey of 78 community food banks and 47 food retail and wholesale companies operating 8,360 supermarkets. The data are derived from 2004 operating results.