A food bank or foodbank is a non-profit, charitable organization that distributes food to those who have difficulty purchasing enough food to avoid hunger.
In the United States and Australia, food banks usually operate on the "warehouse" model. They act as food storage and distribution depots for smaller front line agencies; and usually do not themselves give out food directly to the hungry. After the food is collected, sorted, and reviewed for quality, these food banks distribute it to non-profit community or government agencies, including food pantries, food closets, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, orphanages, and schools.
Outside North America and Australia, the "front line" model is often found. Such food banks give out most or all of their food directly to the end users. For both models, the largest sources of food include for-profit growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers who in the normal course of business have excess food that they cannot sell. Some foodbanks receive a substantial proportion of their food from individual donors, including their volunteer workers. There is considerable overlap with food salvage, food rescue and gleaning, although not with freeganism or dumpster-diving.
The world's first food bank was established in the US in 1967, and since then many thousands have been set up all over the world. In Europe, which until recently had little need for food banks due to extensive welfare systems, their numbers grew rapidly after the lasting global inflation in the price of food which began in late 2006, and especially after the 2007–2012 global financial crisis began to further worsen economic conditions for those on low income.
The growth of food banks has been broadly welcomed, most especially by those on the right of the political spectrum, but also by many on the left, who see them as evidence of active community that is independent of the state. However, academics and commentators have expressed concern that the rise of foodbanks may erode political support for welfare provision. Researchers have reported that food banks can be inefficient compared with state run services, and that some people feel ashamed at having to turn to them.