The History of Feeding America
For 40 years, Feeding America has responded to the hunger crisis in America by providing food to people in need through a nationwide network of food banks. The Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank is one of 200 Feeding America food banks in the United States and 7 food banks in Virginia.
The concept of food banking was developed by John van Hengel in Phoenix, AZ in the late 1960s. Van Hengel, a retired businessman, had been volunteering at a soup kitchen trying to find food to serve our neighbors facing hunger. One day, he met a desperate mother who regularly rummaged through grocery store garbage bins to find food for her children. She suggested that there should be a place where, instead of being thrown out, discarded food could be stored for people to pick up—similar to the way “banks” store money for future use. With that, an industry was born.
Van Hengel established St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, AZ as the nation’s first food bank. In its initial year, van Hengel and his team of volunteers distributed 275,000 pounds of food to people in need. Word of the food bank’s success quickly spread, and states began to take note. By 1977, food banks had been established in 18 cities across the country.
As the number of food banks began to increase, van Hengel created a national organization for food banks and in 1979 he established Second Harvest, which was later called America’s Second Harvest the Nation’s Food Bank Network. In 2008, the network changed its name to Feeding America to better reflect the mission of the organization.
Today, Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization—a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country. As food insecurity rates hold steady at the highest levels ever, the Feeding America network of food banks has risen to meet the need. Feeding America food banks feed 40 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. When families can't afford enough to eat, they are often can't meet other basic needs as well — including housing, employment, healthcare, and more. Feeding America helps provide meals to people in need through a network of food banks and helps address root causes of hunger. Together, we can provide hope, food, and stability.
For more information, please watch the short video below.