Food Co-ops and Food Banks, a Natural Partnership

By: Co+op

When you think about people in the United States struggling with hunger, what images come to mind? If you’ve ever experienced food insecurity you already know the truth: hungry people look like all of us—every community in the United States has households who report not having enough food to eat on a regular basis. Rural and suburban, urban and remote, food insecurity is not happening “somewhere else,” someone is struggling in your community right now.

To experience food insecurity means that a person has inadequate or uncertain access to enough food to live a healthy life. In America, more than 37 million people face hunger. Although this is an ongoing reality for many, families report that just one bad month, financially, can lead to hunger—losing a job, a surprise medical bill, even unexpected car repairs can result in family members going without enough to eat. Many families that experience food insecurity do not qualify for federal nutrition assistance through SNAP, or even if they do, there is time between applying for and receiving assistance, but the need to eat does not wait.

Food co-ops have a vision of healthy food for everyone; our stores celebrate delicious, healthy, local food, something that every person deserves. We are working cooperatively on a national level to advocate for federal policy that reduces hunger and increases access to healthy food for people in the United States.

At the same time, we support our community partners who are working to feed hungry people every day. Collectively, food co-ops in the U.S. donate over 1.5 million pounds of fresh, delicious food to food pantries in our communities every year, and many co-ops raise funds individually for local hunger organizations through our register round-up and BYO-bag donation programs. More than 40% of food co-ops offer a needs-based discount, and co-ops work together at the federal level to advocate for increased funding for nutrition programs like SNAP, WIC and fruit and vegetable incentive programs (Learn more in our annual Impact Report).

As community-owned grocery stores, food co-ops understand that food insecurity is an issue that is close to home. We are committed to working together toward the day when everyone has the good, local, healthy food we all deserve.