The problem of hunger in America is far-reaching, and growing. The number of people who are struggling to put food on the table remains at record levels, with one out of every six Americans — 49 million people — at risk of hunger. And of that figure, almost 16 million are children. It was reported that a record 46.7 million Americans were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) program, a bellwether of the increasing need.
At the same time, there is a new face of hunger. It is not just unemployed or homeless individuals who need food, but middle-class families, the working poor, children, and the elderly. And they live not just in the inner city, but in the suburbs as well.
Bank of America’s focus on hunger dates back to 2009, when the economic downturn increased the number of people whose critical needs were not being met. Since then, the company has contributed nearly $30 million to a range of nonprofits to address these issues. In order to provide a comprehensive approach to fight hunger, the bank has mobilized a full array of assets including philanthropy, volunteerism, fresh food financing and local nonprofit board service. Beyond these activities, Bank of America has raised public awareness of the issue of hunger through various communications, marketing, and sponsorship channels, and offered customers a way to help fight hunger.
Bank of America has a longstanding partnership with Feeding America, the leading domestic hunger relief charity in the U.S., with more than 200 member food banks serving all 50 states. Support includes the Feeding America Give A Meal ™ holiday campaign, which provides funding for meals to help feed the millions of Americans facing food insecurity. Thanks to the efficiency of Feeding America’s network, where most of the food and grocery products are donated, every $1 helps provide nine meals.
Through the campaign, Bank of America extends the impact of individual donations to fight hunger by giving $2 for every $1 donated, tripling the impact and providing more than 23 million meals to help those in need.
Sponsoring the Give A Meal campaign is part of the company’s work to raise awareness about the issue of hunger. Locally, Bank of America also works with soup kitchens, food pantries, kids’ cafes, after-school and in-school programs — a comprehensive effort to address the issue at the community level.
Bank of America’s charitable funding to address hunger is supported by employee volunteerism. In 2012, more than 10,000 Bank of America employees volunteered nearly 60,000 hours of their time with nonprofits that address critical needs including hunger. Their involvement includes everything from packing and sorting food in food banks to serving on boards of nonprofits, where they provide strategic direction. More than 1,000 hunger-related volunteer events were held in 2013.
Local programs, strong communities
“Addressing hunger is just one of the ways that Bank of America is working to improve communities through our broader corporate social responsibility activities,” says Kerry Sullivan, president of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. “We recognize that many of the issues facing communities are interrelated, so we’re taking a comprehensive approach — for example, by funding programs that support longer-term solutions addressing financial wellness. As a global institution, we believe it’s important to provide meaningful and responsive support, working in partnership with national, regional and local organizations as well as other funders.”
If people don’t have to make the hard choice between paying their rent or buying food — as 4 out of 10 households on emergency food assistance do — they can succeed in school, get jobs and take care of their families. Through Feeding America and other organizations, local efforts impact communities in 50 states. As Bob Aiken, Feeding America’s CEO says, “The financial support and generosity of donors like Bank of America is critical to our ability to recapture food that would go to waste — and get it to the people who really need it.”
Think globally, act locally
Internationally, Bank of America’s support of hunger relief has primarily been through its philanthropic response to disasters, with partners including Save the Children, World Vision, Internationally, Bank of America’s support of hunger relief has primarily been through its philanthropic response to disasters, with partners including Save the Children, World Vision, Partners in Health and the World Food Programme. The connections between hunger relief and nutrition, economic livelihood and food stability is undeniable at the global scale. While conditions are improving, there continue to be serious challenges related to malnutrition, starvation, and food insecurity, all of which were affected by the global economic crisis. Some country-specific food bank projects that have been successful include gathering leftover food from hotels in Mexico and distributing healthy seafood via Feeding Hong Kong.
In 2013, Bank of America provided a $125,000 grant to the Mexican Food Bank Association, Asociacion Mexicana de Bancos de Alimentos, A.C., which included $75,000 for a prepared food recovery hotel pilot, and $50,000 in disaster relief to help victims affected by Hurricane Ingrid in Veracruz, Mexico. The Mexican Food Bank Association is one of the largest nonprofit organizations in Mexico, with more than 18 years of experience and 61 food banks in its network. AMBA rescues food along the entire value chain: from the field, to producing and marketing companies, to large multinational supermarkets, and provides it to the most vulnerable population of Mexico, especially in urban and suburban areas.