Food banks are uniquely positioned to be “hubs” for diverse community food security strategies that allow participants to gain the skills, resources, and social capital, to increase their own food security and become leaders. Currently, food banks are a trusted resource for millions of low-income families through their networks of partner agencies. They are also the leaders in local communities on food access, with established networks of relationships with businesses, agriculture, government agencies, community leaders and citizens. Furthermore, the physical infrastructure of food banks provides assets in warehousing, logistical, and distribution capacities.
Recognizing these advantages, many food banks across the nation have established themselves as leaders in incorporating community food security strategies into their work. Many others have expressed interest in incorporating such strategies in their services but thus far have lacked a forum in which to develop these ideas.
For these reasons, the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona hosted the Closing the Hunger Gap conference in September 2013, to bring this emerging conversation to the forefront. Over 300 people attended from 170 different organizations, including food banks and ally organizations like school districts, health organizations, advocacy groups, academics, and food businesses. The process of bringing this event together was equally, if not more, important as the event itself. Many of these initial conversations led to ideas for educational sessions at the conference, which featured expert panels as well as invited participants to share their expertise. Representatives from 10 leading food banks and ally organizations formed a national Leadership Team to steer an inclusive process which included hundreds of conversations with food bankers in a wide variety of roles all over the United States.
After the 2013 Conference, the Leadership Team continued working together to develop the network’s vision, goals, and strategic priorities. The Oregon Food Bank will host the Closing the Hunger Gap: Cultivating Food Justice conference in September 2015. This conference will bring together more than 500 attendees for a vibrant, diverse, and inspiring event where attendees have ample time to learn new skills, discuss innovative programs, and network with their peers. The conference will also provide an opportunity for attendees to strategize around the CTHG priorities and help to plan the direction of our growing movement.
- Position food banks and food programs as public health institutions
- Build local food systems and community economies
- Grow our capacity as community organizers and social justice advocates
- Collaborate for clients: Wrap-around services
- Advocate for policy and funding conditions that support community food security
We envision a time when food banks measure success based on how many people no longer need handouts, rather than primarily on increased “neediness” or the pounds of food that have been moved in and out;
We envision a time when people who now see themselves as “recipients” will increasingly build capacity to determine their own futures; and
We envision a time when low-income people, food banks, and community food leaders are effectively engaged in close collaboration in food security efforts that are local, regional, national, and international. We seek to grow this movement to build a network culture of collaboration, innovation, and learning.
To engage food banks and their constituents in expanding their efforts beyond food handouts, toward community-based empowerment initiatives that effectively network with broader food security work.
To build the capacities of food bank board and staff who wish to move toward empowerment work, and build practitioners’ networks that advance this practice.
To effectively engage diverse constituencies nationally to serve as a stronger voice supporting community empowerment efforts in low-income communities.