The good news is food banks exist in most American cities. The not-so-good news is they're not always easy to find. Food banks, sometimes known as food pantries, are run by various non-profit organizations. You don't always know they're there because they often operate out of churches during certain hours of the day or on specific days of the month. Some food banks are even mobile and travel throughout cities making distributions. Finding a food bank is much easier once you have an idea of where to look.
Feeding America is a national non-profit network of food banks. You can search FeedingAmerica.org by city to reveal all food bank locations in your area. For example, in San Diego California, a 2015 search found distribution locations at Crosspointe Life Church, St. Marks Church Mikey's Feed the People, Church of the Nazarene, Heaven's Window and the Community Resource Center. Locations may allow you to just stop in and pick up food during operating hours, while others may require an appointment. Call the location directly to request information on the specific procedure.
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The Salvation Army serves millions of meals to anyone in need through various food programs, including soup kitchens, food pantries and mobile meals. Specific programs vary based on location. Enter your zip at SalvationArmyUSA.org to find the nearest center. The Salvation Army may have restrictions on how often you can receive food from their food pantry. For instance, if you get food from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Salvation Army pantry, you have to wait three months before you can get more. Certain documentation may also be required, such as your driver's license and recent utility bill.
The United Way's 211 Helpline can locate find food banks near you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The 2-1-1 number is reserved by the Federal Communications Commission in nearly every state to help residents get easy access to information and services. You can also Visit 211.org to connect with your city or state's online information service website. For example, at Texas211.org, you can enter "food" to view all food banks and pantries in the state.
Most food bank organizations can also give you information about state and government food assistance, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the National School Lunch Program. These programs can provide reoccurring assistance.
Community Action Agencies
Community Action Agencies are non-profit public and private organizations funded by the government. They work closely with other agencies and organizations, so they're aware of programs available in your area and can point you in the right direction. Stop by or call your county's CAA and let the agent know you need help getting food.