Frequently Asked Questions on Food Banks

Frequently Asked Questions:

Click each question for more information about Feeding the Carolinas.

How is the food distributed?

After food has been received, sorted and inspected at the food bank warehouse (regional distribution center), it’s ready for distribution to community partners. There are three main methods of food distribution: Agencies may pick-up the food at the warehouse, the food bank may deliver the food to the community organization or pantry, or the food bank may conduct a Mobile Pantry or direct distribution. Mobile Pantries or direct distributions are an innovative way of working with partner agencies to increase the quality and quantity of food they can distribute. Many agencies cannot afford adequate coolers to safely distribute products that require freezing or refrigeration. To help build community capacity, the food bank will use its refrigerated trucks to distribute perishable foods alongside the partner agency. By using our trucks, we help them to provide greater amounts of nutritious foods to the people they serve. Some areas have pockets of need, but no agencies to help. In those cases, the food bank may operate a Mobile Pantry to provide direct distribution to people in need.

Where can I get food?

Most food banks don’t distribute directly to the public. Instead, we work through community-based organizations and churches to help identify people with the greatest need. In the two Carolinas, we work through more than 3,700 agencies. To find an agency near you, visit your food bank website or contact your regional food bank and ask about local food distributions. Find your regional food bank here.

What’s most helpful to donate: food or money?

Don’t let your food go to waste, donate it! Donated food is always welcome; however, money goes much further. Leveraging the power of our network, we can turn one dollar into approximately $7 worth of food. Receiving your donated funds also allows us to purchase food that fills the nutritional gap of donated foods.

What does Feeding the Carolinas do?

Feeding the Carolina works in partnership with ten Feeding America affiliated food banks (regional distribution centers) to create a hunger-free North and South Carolina. Our members focus on serving and developing resources in their local community, while Feeding the Carolinas works across two states to leverage resources, both funds and food, to our regional food banks.

Our fresh produce program, “Farm to Food Banks,” partners with the agriculture industry to rescue millions of pounds of fresh produce each year.

Feeding the Carolinas unites the voices of the largest hunger-relief network in North and South Carolina for advocacy in Raleigh and Columbia.

What is the difference between a Food Bank and a Food Pantry?

Food Banks are non-profit organizations that collect, purchase and rescue donated food in order to feed food insecure individuals through their community partners. The Food Bank is a warehouse where the food is gathered, sorted, inspected for safety and then made available to the community partners or Food Pantries. Food Pantries are the partner agencies and churches that distribute food directly to their communities.

Where does the food come from?

Food comes from many sources including donations, purchase and USDA commodities:


Grocery items are donated from food drives, major retail stores and distribution centers, manufacturers, farms and packing houses.


To supplement donations and to provide specific food for a program or to help partner agencies save money on food they may not receive through donations, Food Banks leverage our national network and relationships to purchase food at the lowest possible price, often saving our partners up to 60% on food they would normally purchase at a wholesale warehouse-shopping club.

USDA Commodities

Commodities are foods that are purchased by the US Department of Agriculture and provided to food banks for distribution to qualified community and non-profit organizations. These products range from canned and boxed, shelf stable foods to fresh produce and frozen meats.

What’s the big deal with Feeding America?

Like our members, we take great pride in our affiliation with Feeding America because it means we have met the highest levels of operational excellence, transparency and ethics. The father of food banking, John van Hengel, originally founded Feeding America as Second Harvest in 1976 after successfully developing the first food bank in 1967. That concept has been a model for the world and the concept that he originated is now the Feeding America and Global Food Banking Network’s legacy. Feeding America is the nation’s leading hunger-relief organization with more than 200 member Food Banks that serve every county and parish in every state of the nation.

Why do we need Food Banks? Don’t people already get Food Stamps?

Food Stamps, known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) were designed to supplement a low-income family’s ability to purchase groceries. Many families fall into a category of working poor – they earn too much for SNAP but don’t earn enough to afford adequate meals. Elderly or disabled people on fixed incomes sometimes must choose between paying for medicine and buying nutritious food. Food banks can help. Supplemental food from the food bank means a person can reallocate a portion of their grocery money towards rent, utilities, medicine or transportation.

What is “Food Insecurity?”

“Food Insecurity” refers to the lack of access to enough nutritious food to fully meet basic needs because of a lack of financial resources.

  • North and South Carolina’s Overall Food Insecurity rate is approximately 14.2% or 2,253,790 individuals
  • North and South Carolina’s Child Food Insecurity rate is approximately 20.1% or 687,060 children

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