Lisa Moon
President and CEO, The Global FoodBanking Network

Discussions surrounding the world’s food systems are gaining steam in the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September, where The Global FoodBanking Network is looking forward to working with other food systems leaders to think through ways to transform how we produce and consume food.

While the Summit conversations will focus on getting us back on track to reach Zero Hunger by 2030 (SDG 2), the commitments made will also impact our progress toward other SDG targets and present sustainability professionals with opportunities to advance their work in tandem with food security advocates.

At The Global FoodBanking Network, we see this intersection of opportunities play out through the work of our food bank partners. Food banks are local hunger-relief organizations that rescue surplus, wholesome food and redirect it to people facing food insecurity. They have the unique ability to access local and global food supply chains as well as to leverage the reach of community-based organizations, making them critical players in the fight against hunger.

While rooted in providing hunger relief, the work of food banks does not stop at SDG 2. The world currently wastes one-third of the food produced for human consumption — an unconscionable fact, considering nearly two billion people are undernourished and the devastating impact food left in landfills has on the environment. And so, as food banks redirect food that would otherwise go to waste, they are important partners in the effort to halve food loss and waste by 2030 (SDG 12.3) and combat climate change (SDG 13). They work closely with small- and large-scale farmers and industry to identify excess supply and then deliver it through regional and local community programs to people facing hunger. Their efforts create a win-win situation: people suffering from food insecurity gain access to the safe, surplus product, and the negative environmental impact of food in landfills is reduced.

This cross-cutting work helps advance other goals in the SDG agenda. Consider food banks’ efforts to address child hunger. Food banks collaborate with food companies and local governments to develop school-based feeding programs in underserved communities. These programs are a practical and cost-effective way of reaching children facing food insecurity. And the impact of school feeding programs goes beyond filling empty stomachs. Research shows that school feeding programs help reduce poverty (SDG 1), improve education outcomes (SDG 4), and strengthen poor communities more broadly.

And in a world where 60 percent of the undernourished are women and girls, GFN partner food banks across 44 countries provide critical access to food for all people. Indeed, it is well documented that when women are given the same resources as men (SDG 5), they are a driving force against hunger, malnutrition, and poverty, especially because women make the majority of the nutrition decisions for their families.

This is just a sample of how the work of food banks in combatting hunger has an impact far beyond the simple provision of food. While providing food, reducing food loss and waste, combatting climate change, and so on, food banks drive development in their communities. They build local leadership and strengthen the populations they serve.

Governments, businesses, civil society organizations, and global citizens are rallying around the SDGs to make the world a more equitable, safer, and thriving place. These commitments can be put into action when the right partnerships are in place. We must continue to collaborate, share best practices, and take advantage of resources such as the ISSP in the years leading up to 2030. With less than a decade to go, now is the time to take a step back and consider the ways your work might benefit from unique partnerships. How can we work together and identify creative ways to find connections between our agendas? How does our work cut across the full array of SDGs? The opportunity to collaborate with others who are working on sustainability issues — especially less usual partners, like food banks — should not be missed.