National Food Bank Day Date in the current year: September 6, 2024

National Food Bank Day National Food Bank Day is observed annually on the first Friday of September. It was created to celebrate charitable organizations that help people struggling with food insecurity and help to combat hunger.

Food banks are non-profit, charitable organizations that distribute food to those who cannot afford to purchase enough food to sustain themselves. Most food banks in the US work through intermediaries like soup kitchens or food pantries, although some run their own food pantries to distribute food directly. Outside of the US, many food banks distribute food themselves.

The world’s first food bank was St. Mary’s Food Bank. It was founded in 1967 in Phoenix, Arizona. John van Hengel, the founder of the food bank, named it after St. Mary’s Basilica that had loaned him $3,000 and provided premises to operate out of. Van Hengel worked with local grocery stores and food producers that donated unwanted food he then distributed.

In the following years, van Hengel’s concept of food banking gradually gained popularity in other parts of the country. In 1975, he was awarded a federal grant to develop a nationwide network of food banks and temporarily left St. Mary’s Food Bank to form American Second Harvest, renamed Feeding America in 2008.

The food bank movement really began to grow and expand in the 1980s, both in the United States and internationally. More than 90% of food banks operating in the United States were established after 1981. This was largely due to Ronald Reagan’s administration cutting back on welfare assistance.

Around the same time, food banks began to emerge in Europe. The first European country to have a food bank open was France in 1984. The rapid growth of the number of food banks in Europe began in the late 2000s due to the 2007–2008 world food price crisis that severely affected people from lower income brackets. The use of food banks increased again during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, there are thousands of food banks operating around the world that help millions of people. In the United States alone, food banks help about 42 million people who struggle to put food on the table. The Global Food Banking Network is a global network that connects food banks in over 40 countries. Its partner organizations are Feeding America, which connects food banks throughout the United States, and the European Food Banks Federation, a network of almost 350 food banks in 30 countries of Europe.

National Food Bank Day was founded by St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in 2017 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, recognize the contribution of thousands of food banks to ensuring food security and preventing food waste, and honor food bank staff and volunteers around the globe.

You can observe National Food Bank Day by donating nonperishable food to or volunteering at your local food bank, running a food drive or hosting a fundraiser to support your local food bank, and spreading the word about the holiday and the importance of food banks on social media with the hashtag #NationalFoodBankDay.

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National Food Bank Day, observances in the United States, food banks, charitable organizations, food bank movement