Food Banks Respond to Food Crisis as Russia’s War Against Ukraine Continues

As Russia’s war on Ukraine continues, food banks in Ukraine and across Europe are working to provide food aid for those under siege.

The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) recently implemented an Emergency Response Fund, which supports the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA) and the Kyiv City Charitable Foundation Food Bank (KCCF). Together, the food banks are playing a critical role in recovering and delivering food and personal hygiene products throughout Ukraine and nearby countries including Hungary, Moldova, Poland, and Romania.

Russia and Ukraine produce about 12 percent of all food calories traded worldwide and are among the top five exporters of several cereals and oilseeds, like wheat, barley, sunflowers, maize, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reports. But because of the war in Ukraine, millions of Ukrainians may face food insecurity.

“We are facing a food shortage because a lot of local producers have stopped operations. That’s why food aid from abroad is so important for us,” Nadiya Borysenko, founder and head of the KCCF, tells Food Tank.

In regions of Ukraine with active fighting and high numbers of displaced people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports worsening food security. As the conflict encircles key cities, ports close, and people flee, Ukrainians are facing difficulties sustaining livestock production, harvesting winter crops, and planting spring crops, according to the FAO.

But food banks are working to respond to the acute hunger crisis. Borysenko tells Food Tank that even though KCCF, headquartered in Kyiv, has had to relocate their distribution warehouse due to safety concerns, the organization has been able to continue reaching people in need. KCCF has redistributed over 830 tons of humanitarian aid since Russia’s invasion in late February.

“To build proper logistics was a huge challenge for us, but we made it. The Ukrainian government has simplified as much as possible the procedure of customs clearance for humanitarian aid coming from abroad,” Borysenko tells Food Tank.

The food bank received 240 tons of products from other food banks abroad, of which 180 have been distributed. KCCF also received 62 tons of food, water, and other products from organizations in Portugal, Romania, and Poland. Despite production challenges, KCCF has been able to source more than 650 tons from local stores and producers, who have provided water, frozen chicken, bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, and baby food. Outside of Kyiv, KCCF also delivers some food to cities currently under direct fire, such as Mariupol, Kharkiv, Nizhyn, and Chernihiv.

According to the second Ukraine Internal Displacement Report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Russian invasion has internally displaced more than 7.1 million people. KCCF’s beneficiaries include refugees who have fled to the western part of Ukraine. Borysenko tells Food Tank that KCCF is also working to reach civilians in orphanages, medical institutions, and those who are choosing to stay and defend their lands in these regions.

Outside of Ukraine, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that approximately 5 million people have fled Ukraine for other countries in Europe. FEBA, a coalition of over 300 food banks in more than two dozen countries across the continent, is completing visits with their members in Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, and Romania. In a recent humanitarian mission, FEBA partnered with DHL, the German courier, package, and delivery company. They helped transport 17 tons of food collected from employees of SEA, the group that operates Milan airports, for Ukrainian refugees in Romania.

FEBA also reports that the Federacja Polskich Banków Żywności (Federation of Polish Food Banks), has received more than 1,000 tons  of food and hygiene donations for refugees reaching the country. The Federation of Polish Food Banks provided aid to around 250,000 refugees so far. Romanian food banks have also sent nearly 13 kilograms of food, clothing, and hygiene products to Moldova’s Banca de Alimente, supporting waves of refugees arriving from Ukraine. And in France, FEBA, along with 6,000 of its partner associations, are working to welcome around 30,000 refugees to France, and ensuring access to food aid, and hygiene or medical products.

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Photo courtesy of Michel E, Unsplash

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