The Role of Food Banks in Addressing Food Insecurity: A Systematic Review
Food banks play a major role in the food aid sector by distributing donated and purchased groceries directly to food insecure families. The public health implications of food insecurity are significant, particularly as food insecurity has a higher prevalence among certain population groups. This review consolidates current knowledge about the function and efficacy of food banks to address food insecurity. A systematic review was conducted. Thirty-five publications were reviewed, of which 14 examined food security status, 13 analysed nutritional quality of food provided, and 24 considered clients’ needs in relation to food bank use. This review found that while food banks have an important role to play in providing immediate solutions to severe food deprivation, they are limited in their capacity to improve overall food security outcomes due to the limited provision of nutrient-dense foods in insufficient amounts, especially from dairy, vegetables and fruits. Food banks have the potential to improve food security outcomes when operational resources are adequate, provisions of perishable food groups are available, and client needs are identified and addressed.
KeywordsFood bank Food insecurity Client needs Vulnerable Review
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
- 4.Kicinski, L. R. (2012). Characteristics of short and long-term food pantry users. Michigan Sociological Review, 26, 58–74.Google Scholar
- 8.Irwin, J. D., Ng, V. K., Rush, T. J., Nguyen, C., & He, M. (2007). Can food banks sustain nutrient requirements? A case study in Southwestern Ontario. Canadian Journal of Public Health/Revue Canadienne de Sante’e Publique, 98(1), 17–20.Google Scholar
- 17.Gentilini, U. (2013). Banking on food: The state of food banks in high‐income countries. IDS working papers, vol. 2013(415), pp. 1–18.Google Scholar
- 22.Gany, F., Bari, S., Crist, M., Moran, A., Rastogi, N., & Leng, J. (2013). Food insecurity: Limitations of emergency food resources for our patients. Report 10993460.Google Scholar
- 25.Starkey, L., Gray-Donald, K., & Kuhnlein, H. V. (1999). Nutrient intake of food bank users is related to frequency of food bank use, household size, smoking, education and country of birth. The Journal of Nutrition, 129(4), 883–889.Google Scholar
- 32.Duffy, P., Hallmark, G. G., Molnar, J. J., Claxton, L., Bailey, C., & Mikloucich, S. (2002). Food security of low-income single parents in East Alabama: Use of private and public programs in the age of welfare reform. Southern Rural Sociology, 18(1), 48–81.Google Scholar
- 35.Greder, K., Garasky, S., & Klein, S. (2007). Research to action: A campus-community partnership to address health issues of the food insecure. Journal of Extension, 45(6), 6FEA4–6FEA4.Google Scholar
- 36.Greger, J. L., Maly, A., Jensen, N., Kuhn, J., Monson, K., & Stocks, A. (2002). Food pantries can provide nutritionally adequate food packets but need help to become effective referral units for public assistance programs. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102(8), 1126–1128.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- 37.Jessri, M., Abedi, A., Wong, A., & Eslamian, G. (2014). Nutritional quality and price of food hampers distributed by a campus food bank: A Canadian experience. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, 32(2), 287–300.Google Scholar
- 43.Starkey, L., & Kuhnlein, H. V. (2000). Montreal food bank users’ intakes compared with recommendations of Canada’s food guide to healthy eating. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 61(2), 73–75.Google Scholar
- 49.Burns, C. (2004). A review of the literature describing the link between poverty, food insecurity and obesity with specific reference to Australia. Melbourne: Victorian Health Promotion Foundation.Google Scholar
- 50.Inquiry, F. P. (2014). Feeding Britain: A strategy for zero hunger in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The report of the all-party parliamentary inquiry. The Children’s Society.Google Scholar
- 51.Foodbank Australia. (2012). End hunger report 2013, Sydney.Google Scholar
- 52.Feeding America. (2014). Hunger in America 2014. http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/hunger-in-america/.
- 53.Foodbanks, Canada. (2015). Hunger count. Mississauga: Food banks Canada.Google Scholar