A Growing Concern with Food Banks (by Sandy Arrell, 11946)

Research Question

Do clients take advantage of food banks?


We all know what food banks are and what purpose they serve but how many people have had the experience of a food bank first-hand? Many of us might not ever step foot into a food pantry except to volunteer. These are the lucky ones. Long-term unemployment, persistent underemployment and the high cost of food, gas, utilities and rent are forcing more and more people to seek emergency food. 270,000 people per month eat meals from emergency food boxes. That’s half of Portland’s population. Of those, 92,000 are children. Since the beginning of the Recession in 2008, emergency food box distribution has increased 41%.

Food banks are designed to help those in emergency situations. They are meant to feed those who may not know where their next meal is coming from. It is a temporary fall back. When I volunteered at a food pantry I witnessed some things that I didn’t like. Pantries have limited supplies and we haven’t even been close to ending hunger since the 70’s. There are clients driving nice cars, wearing nice clothes and flashing jewelry that come into the pantry on a regular basis. The things I witnessed aren’t just taking place in our neighborhoods but on a nationl level as well. Nigel Baxter, lead organizer at Bestwood and Bulwell food bank in Deep Valley, Nottinghamshire, said: “Sometimes you get professional people on £60,000 salaries dropping in.” If these people can afford to live such nice lifestyles how can they not afford to feed their families?

There is an even bigger problem taking place that really concerns me. There are quite a few people that return to the pantry on a weekly basis. Some need more help than others. The problem I see is some that are taking way beyond their needs. It is typical protocol to loop through a pantry and choose the items allotted to you for the week. But some are sneaking through a second time or sending friends or other family members in to get multiple food boxes. People are stealing from the pantries which creates a huge problem not only for the lack of food remaining but for the people that need it most. When there isn’t enough milk, bread or fresh produce for our senior citizens, single parents or those with strict medical diets we are facing a great problem. I also witnessed a huge lack of community that brought tears to my eyes. I watched an elderly lady ask another woman to share a product that was detrimental to her diet. This woman had 3 of these items and absolutely refused to share with the client in need. When we stop caring for each other we are defeating the whole purpose of working together as a community. If we don’t follow regulations then supplies won’t stretch among the needy.

Food banks need to be regulated. Each of these programs need to be reviewed and results should be reported to make sure that people aren’t taking advantage. Many turn a blind eye and if those that mandate these programs were aware of what was going on I think policies would be changed to enforce stricter rules. Unfortunately these problems can occur anywhere. Food banks in South Taranaki and in the UK had to make big changes to their food banks to prevent double dipping. It’s very sad that these types of policies should have to be implemented in order to provide for those in need. Food banks will never be able to end hunger but with limited supplies it’s vital that donations are rationed at a reasonable degree. The more people take the less people can be helped. As a community we must act as a community to keep things flowing.

How to Get Involved

These programs are created to help one another. Regardless of the role you play this is a community based program and helping at a food bank is a touching experience. When volunteering in a setting such as this you see first-hand how real things can get. It’s inspiring and it encourages you to continue your involvement. I have been helped on numerous occasions as a single parent and will always be grateful of that. I can truly say from personal experience that it’s a very scary feeling when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. It was my time to give back for all the assistance I’ve received in the past and it was truly a rewarding experience.

 The Research

  • In this article, written by Holly Setter, she discusses possible reasons as to why food banks are having a tough time providing for everyone in need. She reports that local food pantries are attempting to feed up to three times as many people as they were the year before from nearly bare shelves. Several commenters, like Hollywood, feel it’s an increase of people scamming the systems intended as safety nets. “They are giving away too much”.

Setter,Holly. ”Are People Wrongfully Taking Advantage of Food Pantries”                                                    MLive Michigan. Bay City Times, MLive Media Group, October 14, 2011. Web.                                                                         www.mlive.com/…/are_people_wrongfully_taking_a.html

  • This article discusses the Hawera food bank in South Taranaki that has had to implement changes due to people taking advantage of the system. They say it was not uncommon for clients to arrive packed into cars, asking for separate parcels for the families of each individual and that’s was has caused them to re-think allocation procedures. Each client is now required to present a Work and Income request letter or have an assessment with Hawera Budget Advisory Service to receive the help they desire.

Finer,Petra. “Charity Cheats emptying food banks” Stuffco.nz. Fairfax Media

Digital, Taranaki Daily News, March 3, 2015,Web.


  • This article discusses a few different reasons as to why food banks might be suffering. It’s nationally located in London and one of these reasons is based on people taking advantage of the handouts. At the Trussel Trust in the UK clients can obtain vouchers for food boxes. Under special investigation, reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning discovered some shocking matters. Clients were receiving food without vouchers and volunteers weren’t tracking them. All clients are to be regulated. They discovered people with good incomes coming in for food. Others will come with multiple people trying to obtain multiple food boxes. This food bank allows 9 visits per year yet there are reports of clients visiting 9 times per month. A report by Coventry University on the Trussell Trust’sfood bank network in 2011 found clear evidence of attempts to abuse the system by claiming too much food or fraudulently claiming vouchers.

Manning, Sanchez; Murphy, Simon.” No ID, no checks…” PCC Library. Solo Syndication Ltd. Sunday News. April 20, 2014. Web. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.pcc.edu/



  1. Carissa E.


    I really enjoyed reading your culminating project- your writing is both informative and interesting. At first, I was shocked to being reading the theme of your writing piece because I had never heard of this issue before of mis-use of food pantries. I appreciate your definition of what food banks are and who they seek to help- those in temporary emergency situations. You creatively weaved your own experiences volunteering at the food bank in with your research and culminating ideas.
    I think it would have added depth and further understanding to your writing if you had interviewed one or a few of the people receiving help at the food pantry. The whole time I was reading your work, I was thinking, “Why are these people taking more than allocated to them? Do they need it for someone else? Or does lack of money make people greedy?” Your topic is extremely interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your unique ideas. Your sources built upon your credibility tremendously, so great use of citations. I would have liked to see at least one resource as a way for readers to get involved- are there ways we can donate more needed products for restrictive diets or help out pantries in other ways to uphold their purpose? Thank you for sharing what you have witnessed, learned and your own experiences and connection to this topic.

    -Carissa E.

  2. Travis Iverson


    I thought this was a well written essay and I really enjoyed it. Your personal experiences and passion for this cause really shown throughout the essay. I think the part in the essay that really drove the message home was your story about the woman who would not share with the elderly lady. It is unbelievable that a story like this could ever happen and it perfectly shows how the food pantries can get out of hand. I volunteered part of my time at a food pantry this semester as well, and even though I didn’t see the level of misuse that you did, it was evident that changes needed to be made.

    I felt like your writing flowed very well and the piece kept me interested the whole way through. The facts in the introductory paragraph were great, but including a few more in the bulk paragraphs might have supported your theme even more. There really isn’t much else I can find to critique. Not only was this piece interesting, but it was very informative as well. Great job!


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