Food Bank or Food Pantry?
by Teresa Jackson on September 18th, 2020

There are many myths surrounding hunger, homelessness, and poverty. September is Hunger Action Month, which is why Sharing Life's social media platforms  have recently been highlighting some widely-held myths concerning hunger in America. To learn more about these issues, as well as the number of fellow Americans impacted by food insecurity, please follow our Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages.

Today, I would like to share some information on how food banks and food pantries operate. A food bank and a food pantry are very different entities. Food banks mostly operate as distribution centers to food pantries. Both types of hunger-relief organizations operate separately, but both kinds of groups function under guidelines established by Feeding America, a nonprofit organization based in the United States. Feeding America is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people via food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies. Each state has their own Feeding America affiliate. Ours is Feeding Texas.

Food Banks are regional distribution centers for local food pantries. They do very little direct service and, when they do, it is usually during a declared emergency. One direct service provided by many food banks in the US is the mobile food pantry. These trucks go to underserved neighborhoods or rural locations to offer fresh produce and baked goods to local residents; however, a mobile food pantry is not a replacement for a fully-stocked food pantry. Our regional food bank is the North Texas Food Bank ("NTFB"), which is a social benefit organization located in Plano, Texas. The organization distributes donated, purchased, and prepared foods through a network of nearly 1,000 feeding programs and 262 Partner Agencies in 13 North Texas counties.

Sharing Life is a hybrid that started out as a food pantry in 1999. Then, in 2015, Sharing Life became the first Hub in the NTFB’s new distribution model to provide a more-effective way of disbursing these foods to an ever-increasing area. At that time, Sharing Life was not only a thriving local food pantry, but it also became a redistribution organization for the NTFB. That is how we continue to operate today.

We not only act as one of the largest individual food pantries in the State of Texas, but provide support and food to 75 community distribution partners. Sharing Life receives at least one semi-truck and multiple smaller truckloads of food daily. This food comes in and goes right back out. In all of 2019, we distributed 5 million pounds of food. From March 15 – August 15, we distributed 5.1 million pounds of food! I expect us to give away at least 7 million pounds of food by the end of the year, breaking all previous records.

Each hunger-alleviation organization is tasked with raising their own funding. Even though we are very collaborative, we often compete for donations from the same individuals and institutions. People sometimes tell me they made a donation to Feeding America or NTFB and were so happy to do so, because they know it benefits Sharing Life. It does! Without our partners, we absolutely could not accomplish the task of feeding our neighbors so well. However, donations to those entities are not redistributed, but remain with that nonprofit. That is why I'm asking you -- if you wish to alleviate hunger locally -- to consider giving to Sharing Life directly. That way, we can guarantee that your neighbors in need will benefit, not only with food, but with all the other services that Sharing Life provides.

Thank you and God bless you for your generosity!

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