Hunger and food insecurity in the western world is not a new problem.
Colonialism and the indentured servitude required of the working poor to feed themselves became one of many pressures for American independence. Later, the advent of industrialism challenged the productivity of smaller farmers, forcing many of them into homelessness.
Agricultural technology improved during the early 20th century and food scarcity was uncommon until the Great Depression, giving rise to soup kitchens and bread lines. Government relief came in the form of food stamps and wage standards. Economic prosperity post the Second World War led to many believing hunger to be a solved problem until the mid 1960s.
The world’s first food bank opened in 1967 in Phoenix, Arizona, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the reality of domestic hunger became a public concern. By this time and in the decades that followed, food banks have opened across the globe. The first food bank in Canada opened in 1981 in Edmonton and the first European one in France around 1984.
The financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 saw the food bank model become the de facto response to hunger and food insecurity in the developed world.
Food banks are most often privately run by volunteers and donations. They are not a substitute for government’s need to address poverty and food insecurity. However, those issues are complex and difficult to solve.
In the meantime, food banks are here to stay and help millions every day.
To find a food bank or to donate:
- United States:** http://www.feedingamerica.org
- Canada:** http://www.foodbankscanada.ca
- Globally:** http://www.foodbanking.org
References and further reading:
**NOTE: This article also appears in Reader’s Carnival. **