What do food banks need to avert the worst of the impending recession?

After a year of rising inflation and shocks to supply chains in 2022, little relief is expected in 2023, and most world economies now downplay the possibility of a recession next year.

So much so that as countries and international businesses gather in Davos, the World Economic Forum is calling for “bold collective action” to address “the many ongoing crises”.

Ultimately, access to healthy food will be at the forefront of impending economic distress, as acute food insecurity is predicted to reach new heights, surpassing even the 2007-2008 food crisis.

Poor communities often pay a larger portion of their income to basic needs such as food and will therefore be most affected by the ongoing economic crisis. In Colombia, for example, although inflation was around 12 percent, food inflation reached 32 percent in December 2022, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in society.

The potential for a recession this year comes just after other recent famines and food crises. Demand for food bank services, which provide communities with a vital buffer against hunger and food insecurity, has increased significantly in many parts of the world and since the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Now, as we enter the fourth year of the pandemic and seemingly economic instability continues, food banks will continue to play an enormous and vital role in tackling today’s interconnected crises.

From the challenges of hunger and nutrition to the growing impact of climate change and the contribution of our food systems to climate change, food banks offer a versatile solution in both the short and long term. Most importantly, food banks can become the central solution to food insecurity in our societies and help ensure that if a recession comes, people who are already vulnerable don’t have to fend for themselves.

To protect the most vulnerable in society against these escalating challenges, countries and businesses must include food banks more in their plans to address the interconnected crises of hunger, climate change and growing economic insecurity.

To begin with, governments should adopt more supportive policies for food donation and broader social protection.

The Global Atlas of Food Donation Policy, a collaboration between Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and my organization, The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), shows that there are ineffective policies regarding food donation and food waste in many parts of the world. prevent food banks from reaching their full potential in supporting communities.

For example, few governments have adopted tax incentives to encourage more food donations from manufacturers, retailers, and other businesses, despite being a vital tool to reduce food waste and ensure that healthy and nutritious food can feed those who need it most.

Second, companies must ensure that they implement food donation policies and support initiatives that reduce food loss and waste.

This is particularly important as food loss and waste from businesses accounts for a significant portion of the overall total. In the UK, for example, food waste from manufacturing, hospitality and catering and retail accounts for 31 percent of the country’s total food waste.

Businesses should increase their support for food recovery organizations to ensure that excess food can play a key role in addressing common crises such as hunger, climate change and growing economic insecurity, rather than ending up as waste.

The Global Food Banking Network, for example, mobilized corporate support in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, eventually serving up to 40 million people worldwide — increasing to 17 million in 2019.

Finally, governments and businesses must unite to implement better monitoring and management of food loss and waste in our societies.

The impact of lost and wasted food and its missed opportunities to address hunger and climate issues cannot be underestimated, but effectively addressing the root cause means first improving the combined tracking, measurement and management of these numbers.

Closer support from governments and businesses to food rescue organizations will not only help increase our knowledge of how much food is lost and wasted in our communities, it will also ensure that food ultimately serves a good purpose: supporting communities in need.

Nearly four years ago, food banks played a vital role in helping communities around the world survive the worst of the first COVID-19 outbreak, providing food and support in an unprecedented time of need.

Now food banks can revisit the growing problem of hunger and food insecurity around the world. By getting more combined support from governments and businesses, we can maximize their impact on the most vulnerable communities.

Lisa Moon CEO Global Food Banking Network (GFN) is a network connecting more than 950 food banks in more than 40 countries around the world.