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The History of Food Banking

The modern food bank movement has its roots in the efforts of John Van Hengel, a retired businessman who began volunteering at a soup kitchen in Phoenix, Arizona in the late 1960s. To support the program, he began soliciting donations of food products from area grocery stores, but soon his efforts were generating more food than the soup kitchen could handle.

Van Hengel decided to set up a warehouse where he could store the donated products for distribution to charities feeding hungry people in Phoenix. it was the birth of the first food bank and the foundation for a movement that would spread across the nation, beginning in the early 1970s.

In 1976, the federal government gave John Van Hengel's food bank a grant to assist in developing food banks throughout the nation.  The impetus for growth had been increased by the passage of the 1976 Tax Reform Act, which made it more financially advantageous for companies to donate their products. This federally funded development expanded and ultimately incorporated as to manage solicitation of donations from national donors and develop standards for food banks pertaining to storage capacity, quality control and management.

By 1982, federal funding was discontinued; however, America's Second Harvest increased its pursuit of alternative sources of financial support and in 1984, the national office was moved to Chicago, Illinois. The organization continued to grow as the the practice of food banking gained acceptance and support from the food industry and local social service providers feeding hungry Americans.

With many major cities having food banks by the mid 1980's, network expansion slowed and America's Second Harvest's focus shifted to improving existing programs. Professionalism and efficiency of food bank operations improved dramatically, resulting in a much greater amount of food and grocery products being distributed by the Network.

In 1999, the name of the national organization was officially changed to America's Second Harvest with a focused goal of ending hunger in America. In March of 2000, America's Second Harvest merged with Foodchain, the nation's largest food-rescue organization - producing the most comprehensive and efficient charitable food rescue and distribution organization in the country.

In 2008, America's Second Harvest changed its name to Feeding America. As the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, Feeding America's network members supply food to more than 25 million Americans each year, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks operate 63,000 agencies that address hunger through emergency food assistance and programs.








3655 Reed Street I Winston-Salem, NC 27107
Phone: 336.784.5770
Fax: 336.784.7369

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