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Feeding America is a United States-based nonprofit organization that is a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies. It is the third largest U.S. charity. Feeding America was known as America's Second Harvest until August 31, 2008.
In the late 1960s, when John van Hengel, a retired businessman in Phoenix, Arizona began volunteering at a local soup kitchen, he began soliciting food donations for the kitchen. He ended up with far more food than the kitchen could use in its operations. Around this time, he spoke with one of the clients, who told him that she regularly fed her family with discarded items from the grocery store's garbage bins. She told him that the food quality was fine, but that there should be a place where unwanted food could be stored and later accessed by people who needed it, similar to how banks store money.
Van Hengel began to actively solicit this unwanted food from grocery stores, local gardens, and nearby produce farms. His effort led to the creation of St. Mary's Food Bank in Phoenix, the nation's first food bank.
In 1975, St. Mary's was given a federal grant to assist in developing food banks across the nation. This effort was formally incorporated into a separate non-profit organization in 1976.
In 2001, America's Second Harvest merged with Foodchain, which was the nation's largest food-rescue organization at that time.
In 2005, Feeding America began using an internal market with an artificial currency called "shares" to more rationally allocate food. Currency is allocated based on the need, and then individual banks bid on which foods they want the most, based on local knowledge and ability to transport and store the food offered. Negative prices are possible, so banks could earn shares by picking up undesirable food. The previous centrally planned system had penalized banks for refusing any food offered, even if it was the wrong type to meet their needs, and this resulted in misallocations ("sending potatoes to Idaho"), food rotted away in places that didn't need it, and the wrong types of food being delivered (e.g. not matching hot dogs with hot dog buns).
In May 2007, it was featured on American Idol, named as a charity in the Idol Gives Back charity program.
In September 2008, the organization name was changed to Feeding America.
In August 2009, Columbia Records announced that all U.S. royalties from Bob Dylan's album Christmas in the Heart would be donated to Feeding America, in perpetuity.
There has been a rise in the numbers suffering from hunger since the financial crisis of 2007-2008. In 2013, the USDA reported that about 49 million U.S. Americans were now facing the condition, about one in six of the population. In September, they launched Hunger Action Month, with events planned all over the nation, to raise awareness and get more U.S. Americans involved in helping out.
In 2015, Feeding America saved more than 2 billion pounds (~907 metric tons) of food that would have been thrown away otherwise, but could instead be distributed to hungry families.
Feeding America works to educate the general public and keep them informed about hunger in America. The national office produces educational and research papers that spotlight aspects of hunger and provides information on hunger, poverty and the programs that serve vulnerable Americans. Feeding America's public policy staff works with legislators, conducting research, testifying at hearings and advocating for changes in public attitudes and laws that support Feeding America's network and those the organization serves.
In 2017, Feeding America announced a plan to increase the nutritional value of food from food banks. By 2023, the group plans to offer more fruits and vegetables, and provide training so they can distribute more produce, whole grains and lean proteins.
There are more than 200 Feeding America food banks, each of which is "notable" for the work it does in its own area. A complete and current, list is available at the Feeding America web site. These are just a few of the banks in the network: