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How the Food Bank Works

acquiring, storing and distributing food

What happens to Donated Food?

The process of acquiring, storing and distributing food to our hungry neighbors requires a dynamic infrastructure and sophisticated management.

The Merced County Food Bank (a member of the Feeding America Network), secures donations from food and grocery manufacturers, retailers, shippers, packers, growers, and from government agencies, individuals and other organizations.

Donated food is stored at MCFB’s 30,000 square foot warehouse that has over 7,000 square feet of refrigerated and frozen storage.

Food is inventoried, inspected, and cataloged.

MCFB then distributes donated food and grocery products to over 100 food bank partner agencies.

The partner agencies, in turn, distribute food and grocery items through their food pantries and meal programs that serve families, children, seniors and others at risk of hunger. Last year, MCFB distributed over 4,400,000 pounds of food.

In addition to distributing food to partner agencies, MCFB also directly serves the public through our Senior Brown Bag Program, USDA distribution sites and through the Drought Food Assistance Program.

MCFB also supports programs that improve food safety and security among the people we serve; educates the public about the problem of hunger; and advocates for legislation that addresses hunger and its underlying issues. 

Common Questions

  • Can the hungry get food at MCFB?

    Not directly. The food acquired and warehoused at MCFB is distributed to qualified 501(c)(3) charities that feed the hungry throughout Merced and Mariposa Counties – organizations such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters.

    * This year, we have a temporary Drought Food Assistance Program that provides a 30 pound box of nonperishable food that can be picked up directly from our office.

  • What type of food is donated to the Food Bank?

    Most food donations come from the food industry. There are many reasons why products are donated. They may be mislabeled, overproduced, test -market items and products with short code dates.

    MCFB also “salvages” products. The dented cans and crumpled boxes that are pushed aside at the grocery store can be cleaned and sorted by volunteers to provide food pantries and soup kitchens with a variety of food and household products.

  • Does MCFB purchase food?

    MCFB operates a cooperative buying program for its member agencies, where we leverage our buying power to purchase needed items in large quantities and then provide the food to the member agencies through our Nonprofit Community Food Program. This process helps supplement our donated food inventory, enabling MCFB to meet most of the food needs of our partner agencies. Monetary donations to MCFB are used to purchase food, and to underwrite the costs of transporting, storing, and distributing donated food. Through our partnerships with other food banks and the California Association of Food Banks, we can purchase food and fresh produce for .08 cents to .20 cents a pound.

  • Does the MCFB sell food?

    MCFB does not, and in fact, cannot, sell the donated food it receives. Additionally, the local food pantries and soup kitchens cannot charge the hungry people they serve for this food. MCFB does ask the agencies that receive food to cooperate in the support of MCFB by contributing a shared maintenance fee of 17.5 cents per pound for most of the food they receive - some food is free. This shared maintenance fee partially covers the cost of electricity for storage and transportation costs associated with the acquisition and distribution of food.

  • Tell me more about these member agencies…

    To become a MCFB partner agency, agencies must be not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organizations serving the ill, needy, seniors or children. They must serve free meals or provide free food packages to the needy, and have proper facilities for storage, cooking, and food handling. MCFB monitors these agencies on a regular basis to assure they handle food in a safe, sanitary manner. Emergency feeding programs (food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters) provide monthly statistics on the number of people they serve.

  • Tell me more about your operations…

    The Merced County Food Bank is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. A volunteer Board of Directors governs the organization. MCFB employs a dedicated staff and involves hundreds of volunteers in our work to feed hungry people. We are not a government agency, and in fact, do not receive government money for our day-to-day operations, although we do administer two government food programs and receive partial reimbursement for the costs associated with those programs.

  • Can we come see how MCFB works?

    Yes! We encourage you to come. Seeing how the food is handled will give you a much better idea of how your donations are being used. Just give us a call to set up a tour, and see for yourself how MCFB is helping to feed the hungry in our community. Please contact us to set up a tour at (209) 726-3663.

  • Where do you get your funding?

    MCFB is privately funded through a diversity of revenue sources, including the United Way, special fundraising events, individual donations, corporate and foundation grants.

  • Why should I support the Merced County Food Bank?

    MCFB serves as a lifeline for our community. As the agency that acquires, stores, and distributes food, we play a critical role in maintaining and improving the health of our community’s low income, and food insecure populations.

    We do so in a very efficient and cost-effective manner. Your help is needed because requests for food have been steadily increasing, especially among the working poor. In fact, the working poor comprise the fastest growing segment of people in need of food assistance.

    Your donation to MCFB will go a long way toward alleviating hunger in our community.