Frequently Asked Questions

What is the SLO Food Bank?
The SLO Food Bank is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to alleviate hunger in the county by working with a network of agency partners to build a healthier community.

How was the SLO Food Bank started?
It was organized in 1988 and officially started as a legal nonprofit in January of 1989 by local citizens, many of them from local churches who had been part of the founding of Loaves and Fishes. It was a community effort to bring to San Luis Obispo County a badly needed ability to efficiently coordinate efforts to rescue and provide as well as educate the public about hunger needs in the county. This was at a time when food banks were popping up around the country as a new level of meeting the challenge of hunger through greater cooperation and coordination.

Why was the SLO Food Bank started?
The SLO Food Bank was started in order to increase the capacity of our county to:

  1. Access and distribute USDA commodities from the federal government on a countywide basis.
  2. Network with other food banks who were members of Feeding America in order to increase our capacity in resourcing food.
  3. Provide free or low-cost food to other nonprofits, including church pantries and other organizations with outreach to low-income persons.

What’s the difference between a food bank and a food pantry?
A food bank acts as the supply chain and storage warehouse that gathers, stores and distributes food to local food charities and pantries. A food pantry is often not large enough to collect, store and distribute food at scale. These are localized organizations serving a specific area, whereas the SLO Food Bank serves the entire county.

How many people in our county are food insecure?
Food insecurity is a federal measure of a household’s ability to provide enough food for every person in the household to have an active, healthy life. Food insecurity is one way we can measure the risk of hunger. Some 46,000 people in the county are food insecure, meaning they will lack reliable access to healthy food at some point during the year.

How many people do we reach?
The SLO Food Bank provides food to 30,000 individuals every month through its countywide distribution system of direct service and agency partnerships. The SLO Food Bank distributes an average of 4 million pounds of food each year. A total of 5,000 volunteers provide their time and effort each year to make this possible, in addition to a core group of essential employees.

Is our mission just to provide food to the hungry?
No. The vision of the SLO Food Bank is for every person in the county to have adequate access to wholesome food as well. Our robust nutrition policy means that the food we source is nutrient rich and low-fat. Half of the food we distribute is fresh produce. We also encourage healthy food choices through nutrition education that encourages healthy behaviors and advances public health outcomes.

Why do agencies rely on the SLO Food Bank as the source of the food they need?
The SLO Food Bank is able to purchase food at economies of scale that make it viable for partner agencies to feed those in need. The SLO Food Bank provides the backbone infrastructure of storage, refrigeration and transportation, to the benefit of our nonprofit partners.

How much of the SLO Food Bank budget is funded by the government?
The SLO Food Bank relies on government grants and reimbursements for about 20 percent of its budget. Another 5 percent derives from grants issued by other nonprofit foundations. Fully 75 percent of the SLO Food Bank’s annual budget derives from the generous contributions of individuals and business donors.