According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 11% of Americans are food insecure. One person in seven relies on a food bank to eat. Keeping food banks sufficiently stocked is a continuing challenge, but grants for food banks can help.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Grants are monies or products given without the requirement or expectation of repayment.
Federal Grant Opportunities
Federal, state, local and private organizations make grants. Recipients, called grantees, are usually nonprofit entities but may be businesses or individuals, depending on the grant parameters.
Federal grants for food pantries are often made through state agencies, including the following:
- Child and Adult Care Food Program
- Team Nutrition Grants
- WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program
- WIC Grants to States
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Milk Program for Children
- State Administrative Expenses for Child Nutrition
- State Administrative Matching Grants for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Summer Food Service Program for Children
- School Breakfast Program
Visit the website of your state's Department of Health and Human Services to find out whether your organization qualifies for any of these programs and what you need to do to apply.
Community and Local Grants
Grants for food pantries are typically made through foundation and corporate grants, as well as local offices of organizations such as the United Way, community development block councils and the Food Pantry. Religious and civic organizations also make grants to support local causes. There are food banks in large metro areas, such as the Greater Boston Food Bank, the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, that provide food and services to smaller food banks in their regions.
How to Find Grant Opportunities
Finding funding for food banks online can be time-consuming if you're using a general search engine. Focus your search by using an online database such as Federal Grants Wire or Grants.gov, both of which are free to use. Subscription-based databases are best for finding private funding through corporations and foundations. Many public libraries offer free access to databases such as Candid (formerly The Foundation Center), Grant Watch and Grant Station.
The Grant-Writing Process
Applying for grants for food banks requires more than merely filling out forms and stating that there is a need. Look online for sample grant applications written for nonprofit food banks. Grant applications typically require the following elements:
- Abstract or Executive Summary: An overview of the food bank and its services
- Needs Statement: Why the food bank is needed in your community
- Budget: Including operating costs and other funding sources
- Market Analysis and Service Demographics: Who is served
- Strategy and Implementation Summary: Organization of the food bank, how food is collected and distributed
- Management and Staffing Summary: Qualifications and experience of management, employees and volunteers
- Evaluation: Numbers of people served and how you know the program is successful
Be as specific as possible when completing each section of the grant application. For example, the following needs statement is vague: "There are many poor people in Anytown who rely on a food bank to meet their needs." Instead, cite data: "In Anytown, 85% of the children qualify for free or reduced school lunch, and 26% of Anytown's population lives below the poverty line."
Dream Big but Start Small
If you're new to grant writing or if your organization has received little or no grant funding in the past, you're probably not going to receive large grants in the beginning. Grantors want to see demonstrated successes in your program and your ability to raise money. Apply for every grant available to you, no matter how small. Small grants for food pantries, obtained from various sources, can quickly add up and can make a big difference in the viability of your food bank.
- National Public Radio: Being Hungry in America Is Hard Work
- The Grantsmanship Center: What Is a Grant Proposal
- Federal Grants Wire: Food and Nutrition Service Federal Grants
- Grants.gov: Grants 101
- The Chronicle of Higher Education: 10 Tips for Successful Grant Writing
- Business Plans: Nonprofit Food Bank Business Plans
Denise Dayton, M.S., M.Ed. is a freelance writer specializing in careers, education and technology. In addition to writing for corporate clients, she has published articles in Library Journal and The Searcher.