SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction

Community of Practice on Food Loss Reduction

COVID-19 Series / Identifying and addressing the threats against food recovery and redistribution

Many communities and vulnerable individuals rely on foodbanks and other food recovery and redistribution charities to ensure they have access to enough food to build resilience in their communities, reduce food insecurity and contribute to healthier diets.

Quite often foodbanks are able to distribute processed foods with limited access to highly perishable fresh foods, resulting in nutrient deficiencies of beneficiaries who are dependent on these charitable organizations for their food needs.

Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is recommended that food banks, seek to source and offer, as far as possible, fresh fruits and vegetables and limit the quantities of calorie dense foods in their packages. Currently, this is of utmost importance to ensure that beneficiaries remain in good overall health with fully functioning immune systems to provide the best possible immune response to COVID-19.

With a majority of people around the world now unable to perform exercise due lockdown or closure of facilities, there may be greater risk of Non communicable diseases (NCDs) and so the need to consume healthy diets becomes even more critical.

Challenges Faced by Recovery and Redistribution programs

  • Foodbanks are witnessing an exponential increase in demand of recipients and people becoming reliant on their services as a source of food and to prevent hunger. It is also predicted that the number of users will continue to further increase with the spread of the COVID-19. Coupled with a rise in demand, foodbanks are facing various other issues: notably, the knock on effect of panic buying and consumer stockpiling of foods which has reduced donations made to foodbanks from supermarkets. This in turn reduces food availability and the options for foodbank beneficiaries even further. The quality of food bank packages could greatly impact on the health of recipients.
  • Further to this, many foodbanks around the world have been forced to close their doors or to offer considerably reduced services as a result of financial difficulties and reduced donations. Measures to contain the virus have reduced staff numbers and coupled with the health risk to workers and users also prompted some foodbanks to cease operations.


Recommended Solutions and Actions

  • One key way to reduce the stress on foodbanks and food insecure populations is for the general population to avoid panic buying in supermarkets and stockpiling. This will prevent supermarkets selling out of products and therefore fewer food donations. On the contrary, when possible, consumers could buy extra and donate food to charitable organisations that can then redistribute.
  • Consumers must be informed that:  food is available and that there is no need to stockpile food; by stockpiling food they may contribute to the food insecurity of the needy.
  • Online foodbanks offer a promising option now more than ever to continue receiving donations and provide food to those in need while adhering to government quarantine strategies and without risk of infection. People can donate to a foodbank online from their own homes and can even select the type of food package they wish to donate. This is then automatically distributed to local distribution centres from which the donations are sent out.
  • There are also food banks that offer communication to supporters via smartphone applications. The app shows people wishing to donate which foods are most urgently needed and foods that are currently well stocked.  
  • There is now a strong need for guidance on effective food rationing that is based on health and nutrition aimed toward helping those who will be faced with rationing their emergency food packages to get them through the crisis.
  • Innovative solutions such as mobile or drive-through distribution services, which are now offered when possible by some food banks, have helped them remain operational whilst minimising the risks posed to staff and beneficiaries.
  • Most importantly, the good work of foodbanks and similar redistribution centres will only continue with support through donations of food items as well as financial donations to enable them to purchase their own stock of non-perishable and fresh foods to maximise stores. The generosity of all toward supporting foodbanks is of critical importance at this time.


Sources and further reading
Regina Anderson Talks Food Recovery Network, COVID-19
Feeding America
Fighting Hunger, Food Waste Amid COVID-19
Food Bank COVID-19 Precautions & Response

Food banks respond to COVID-19
Food pantries struggle to provide during COVID19
'The need is huge': coronavirus puts increased pressure on local food banks

COVID-19 job loss creates overwhelming demand for food banks
COVID-19: from health to social emergency

Coronavirus and food banks
Covid-19 to leave foodbanks vulnerable
‘It’s Very Scary’: U.K. Food Banks Close as Coronavirus Stalls Donations
Online Foodbank Ramps up for Covid-19 Response


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