Journal of Community Health

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 732–740 | Cite as

The Role of Food Banks in Addressing Food Insecurity: A Systematic Review

  • Chantelle Bazerghi
  • Fiona H. McKay
  • Matthew Dunn
Original Paper


Food banks play a major role in the food aid sector by distributing donated and purchased groceries directly to food insecure families. The public health implications of food insecurity are significant, particularly as food insecurity has a higher prevalence among certain population groups. This review consolidates current knowledge about the function and efficacy of food banks to address food insecurity. A systematic review was conducted. Thirty-five publications were reviewed, of which 14 examined food security status, 13 analysed nutritional quality of food provided, and 24 considered clients’ needs in relation to food bank use. This review found that while food banks have an important role to play in providing immediate solutions to severe food deprivation, they are limited in their capacity to improve overall food security outcomes due to the limited provision of nutrient-dense foods in insufficient amounts, especially from dairy, vegetables and fruits. Food banks have the potential to improve food security outcomes when operational resources are adequate, provisions of perishable food groups are available, and client needs are identified and addressed.


Food bank Food insecurity Client needs Vulnerable Review 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Asylum Seeker Resource CentreFootscrayAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Health, School of Health and Social DevelopmentDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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