The first known ‘food bank’ was established in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona, in 1967 by John van Hengel – a volunteer at a busy St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen.
One day he noticed a woman going through a trash bin behind a supermarket, uncovering that supermarkets and restaurants were throwing away enormous amounts of perfectly edible food every day.
He began meeting with store managers in the area and persuaded them to donate the unsaleable food to his charity. Soon he was receiving more food than he could use. With the help of a local church he established a centrally located warehouse from which any charity could receive donations – and the first food bank was born.
From here the concept of foodbanking spread across the US and around the globe.
Foodbank is now the largest hunger relief organisation in Australia – servicing over 2,400 charities in every state and territory to enable them to provide food to 815,000 people a month.
Foodbank is also a proud member of the Global Foodbanking Network, an international organisation dedicated to developing foodbanking around the world.
Foodbanking was brought to Australia by Jeanne Rockey AM, who had seen a food bank in Los Angeles in 1991. She pitched the idea to her close friend, founding philanthropist Charles Scarf. In 1992 he established the Sydney Foodbank in partnership with John Perrottet and St Vincent De Paul, with generous donations from notable figures including Frank Lowy, David and Colleen McIntosh and the NSW Labor Government.
In 1995 Sydney Foodbank was renamed Foodbank NSW. In 2014 it became Foodbank NSW & ACT and in 2015 it moved into a new purpose-built facility in Glendenning.
Foodbank NSW & ACT is now helping to feed more than 370,000 people every month.
Foodbank WA was established in 1994 by an initiative backed by donations from Lotteries Commission of Western Australia and Rio Tinto. In addition to a purpose-built facility at Perth Airport, Foodbank WA now also operates distribution centres in Albany, Bunbury, Geraldton, Boulder, Mandurah and Joondalup.
Foodbank WA is now helping to feed more than 40,000 people every month.
In 1995 Foodbank Queensland was founded by Clem Jones AO, Ian Brusasco AO AM and David Muir AM to address the critical food relief needs affecting people living in the state of Queensland. Foodbank Queensland quickly scaled up to achieve significant volume by working closely with fruit and vegetable farmers in the state. Today, Foodbank Queensland has expanded operations to work with hundreds of retailers, wholesalers, and farmers to feed Queenslanders in need.
Foodbank Queensland is now helping to feed over 200,000 people every month.
In 2000, Foodbank SA was launched by the Governor of South Australia The Honourable Sir Eric James Neal AC. It now has Foodbank Food Hubs in Berri, Mount Gambier, Whyalla, as well as centrally located sites in Edwardstown, Bowden, Christies Beach and Elizabeth.
Foodbank SA is now helping to feed more than 100,000 people every month.
In Victoria material aid and food relief had commenced in 1930, with the State Relief Committee responding to widespread distress caused by the Great Depression. Its works continued, including under the guidance of renowned philanthropist Dame Phyllis Frost from the mid-60s to 2000. In 2006, the then Victorian Relief Committee merged with Foodbank to become VicRelief Foodbank. It formally changed its name to Foodbank Victoria in 2011.
Foodbank Victoria is now helping to feed more than 140,000 people every month.
In 2009, Foodbank NT was established by Baptist Care in Darwin.
Foodbank NT is now helping to feed more than 6,000 people every month.
In 2010, philanthropist Jan Cameron donated of a 10-year lease on a warehouse and along with a grant from the Tasmanian Government Foodbank was established in Hobart. In 2017 it also opened a facility in Devonport.
Foodbank Tasmania is now helping to feed more than 13,000 people every month.