In 2021, nearly 34 million Americans, including 9 million children, were food insecure, with many relying on charities to feed themselves and their families. This year, thanks to the worst inflation in nearly 40 years, the number of people who are food insecure likely rose even higher. And during the holidays, many will turn to their local food pantries. (Also see, the city with the highest child poverty rate in every state.)
For those who are fortunate enough to afford charitable donations during the season of giving – and time of elevated food insecurity – food banks are a great cause to give to. Food banks and pantries take in and store food donations from individuals, manufacturers, and restaurants and then distribute meals and groceries to those in need. However, according to one of the world’s leading evaluators of philanthropic organizations, not every food bank is created equal.
To find the highest-rated food banks in America, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed food bank ratings by Charity Navigator, an organization that evaluates charitable organizations. Charity Navigator scored more than 2,300 food banks based on four categories: 1. Impact and results, 2. Accountability and finance, 3. Culture and community, and 4. Leadership and adaptability.
The 35 Food Banks listed received a score of 98% or higher. We broke ties using the share of annual spending that goes directly toward the programs that are the primary purpose of the organization. We only considered food banks that are 501(c)(3) organizations, had annual spending of at least $500,000 in the most recent fiscal year, and those that had been scored in all four categories.
The 35 food banks on this list can be found in 22 states across the country, and they range from medium-sized, such as Community Food Bank of Citrus County Inc, with fiscal year spending of less than $1 million, to massive food banks with many partnered food pantries, such as Midwest Food Bank, NFP, which spent $392 million last fiscal year and distributed to nearly 500 partners across 50 counties in the state. (These are 50 cities with huge populations living on food stamps.)
Regardless of the size, one thing all these food banks have in common is relatively little wasted donations. On its methodology page, Charity Navigator explains: “While administration expenses are necessary for efficient charity operations, organizations that grossly underspend on their programs and services will most likely not have as strong an impact on their charitable missions.”
Reviewing lower-scoring food banks, there are plenty with program expense ratios of less than 50% of total spending, with a disproportionate share of expenses going toward executive salaries and other administrative expenses. In opposition to that, the vast majority of the charities on this list have well above 90% of spending going directly to their primary purpose — getting food to those in need.
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