By Scott Akalis, product distribution innovation director, Feeding America
Our Feeding America network of 200 local food banks’ 60,000 partner agencies—food pantries and meal programs—are often the final step when distributing much-needed food and meals to community members struggling with food insecurity. However, these pantries and programs often face the most obstacles to function.
Volunteer staff, little funding or inadequate facilities can hinder these partner agencies from providing the best service to their clients. These problems only heighten when adding the considerations to integrate more produce and perishable items into our distribution, a focal point for Feeding America as we work to offer more healthy food options to the people we serve.
Retail has been Feeding America’s fastest growing source of food for a number of years running, and we expect produce availability from retailers and wholesalers to continue to grow. BJ’s Wholesale Club is one of these valued partners.
In 2011, BJ’s Wholesale Club officially partnered with Feeding America to launch their Feeding Communities Program. With this program, instead of discarding good, unsold food, BJ’s Clubs donate millions of pounds of food each year — including fresh produce, baked goods, frozen meats and fish, and dairy — to help support 44 food banks in the 15 states BJ’s operates. To date, BJ’s 204 clubs have contributed perishable food totaling more than 22 million pounds, which is the equivalent of 18 million meals.
While our partnership began in the retail space, working together and seeing the prevalence of hunger in America today has led BJ’s to extend its commitment to other areas. Because of their presence within the community and knowledge of our process to get the necessary food into the hands of those in need, BJ’s Charitable Foundation decided to commit additional efforts to overcome the obstacles many of the partner agencies face when distributing food to their clients.
In 2014 BJ’s Wholesale Club and Feeding America collaborated again to help more local
agencies in the communities that BJ’s operates. In celebration of BJ’s 30th anniversary this September, and in support of Hunger Action Month™, we’ve created a grant program that will allow 30 food banks to assist their partner food pantries and meal service programs in storing and transporting perishable food items. This will simplify the overall process and help get more food into the hands of those struggling with hunger. The BJ’s Agency Capacity Grant is the first grant of its kind to be offered to the Feeding America network, specifically to increase agency capacities.
It is innovative partners like BJ’s Wholesale Club, who look for new opportunities and are dedicated to the fight to solve hunger, who enable Feeding America to extend our reach and help end hunger in America.