Friday, August 28, 2009

Greater Boston Food Bank

How does food get to people in need?  One major link is the system of 203 food banks across the U.S.

The Greater Boston Food Bank in Boston, MA (pictured here) is the 7th largest in the U.S.  In one year, it distributes over 30 million pounds of food and other grocery products to about 600 member programs (e.g., feeding programs and food pantries) in eastern Massachusetts.  In the U.S overall, there are over 200 food banks annually distributing about 2.5 billion pounds of food and grocery products.

QUESTION: Does anyone know how that compares to the size of the system of distributing NON-emergency food, that is, all the regular sources of food, such as grocery stores?

A small proportion of the food distributed by GBFB consists of miscellaneous food and other items donated by grocery stores and other sources.  Betsy and Carolyn volunteered along with a group of students to help sort some of this food on 8/28/2009.  Our job was to pick out items of a specific category from a large conveyor belt, check to make sure they were not damaged or past their expiration date, and load them into boxes that food pantries could then purchase for a nominal amount.


  1. Good question! Wish I knew the answer.

  2. Quick back of the envelope... 300M people * 3 lbs/day (that's a guess... for backpacking I always used 2 lbs/day, normally people eat fewer calories, but less calorie dense, and more waste) * 365 days/year ~ 300 billion pounds per year. So the food banks are on the order of 1% of that.

  3. Interesting. That 1% has to be shared by the approximately 12.2% of the U.S. population who are food insecure. We have a long way to go!