This year, Feeding America, the nation’s leading hunger relief charity, named Bank of America its Corporate Partner of the Year for 2012. Our partnership with Feeding America is now in its fifth year, and helps support its nationwide food distribution and consumer outreach programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Today, the Feeding America network of 200 food banks provides food to 37 million Americans annually, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors.
Last year, Bank of America helped raise almost $3.5 million in individual and company donations for Feeding America through our Gift for Opportunity™ fund. We seeded the fund with an initial $1 million donation. And holiday season fund donations from customers and employees—helped by a 2:1 bank matching-gifts program—resulted in more than 26 million meals provided to individuals and families.
The face of hunger in America
The number of Americans who are struggling to get adequate food—who are experiencing “food insecurity”—remains at a stubbornly high rate. With food prices rising, individuals are often forced to make difficult choices between food, rent and medical care.
Here in the U.S. there is a new face of hunger, with a different demographic coming to the doors of food pantries. Fewer are homeless—only 10%. Many live in the suburbs, not in urban neighborhoods, and hold down jobs. (36% of households served by Feeding America’s network include at least one working adult.) They may be invisible to their neighbors, but they still need the support of food banks or government programs to secure the food they need to feed their families.
Ironically, there are ample resources in the U.S. to feed everyone. But that outcome is hampered by poor distribution and underutilized government programs. According to Peter Shaefer, CEO of the Northern Illinois Food Bank, “it’s not a question of food or services, it’s a question of will, money, focus, effort, and volunteers—such as the bank and its associates—coming to attack the problem.”
A longstanding and comprehensive approach
At Bank of America, the issue of hunger is one we have addressed since 1985 through local initiatives and employee matching gifts—and through our partnership with Feeding America since 2008. We have supported hunger relief because it is a critical need, but also because it carries significant economic consequences. When individuals and families don’t have enough to eat it affects their ability to hold down jobs or take advantage of educational opportunities, undercutting the stability of communities.
Our efforts to eradicate hunger are broad. We provide financial support through grants to nonprofits—a total of $20 million since 2008. And we rely on our volunteers to get involved in emergency feeding programs and food banks. Last year, for example, Bank of America employees donated 1.5 million hours of their time to community and nonprofit organizations, including many that provide hunger relief.
The bank’s approach is holistic. We support efforts that range from emergency safety net programs to strategies that help individuals be economically self-sufficient. Says Kerry Sullivan, President of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, “At the bank, our commitment to the issue of hunger has been a longstanding one, and one we intend to honor for many years to come. We are always looking for new, innovative and meaningful ways to be help those at risk of hunger—to be part of the solution.”
Quick facts on hunger in America
- 49 million people, or 1 in 6, have poor access to food
- Of those, 16 million are children
- Nearly 4 million people who are 60 or older are experiencing food insecurity
- Demand for emergency food assistance has increased from 2006 to 2010, with food prices rising by 6% and fuel prices by over 26%.