100 meals at a time costs just $25, which is affordable for most members and tells you you’re doing something tangible right now rather than seeing it in dollars alone. That $25 reflects the average cost of $.25 per meal for all meals provided by One Hundred Meals. It may sound insanely low for a meal to you, or high if you’ve given to an organization with a lower average. If you’re not familiar with this process and why numbers vary so much from place to place, we’re happy to fill you in.
At the heart of it, food is donated directly to food banks as well as dollars, and it’s then their job to get the food to the kitchens and shelves of programs that need it. People bring food in individually or through drives, or the banks go get it from regular grocery store, wholesale, and restaurant partners who would thankfully rather donate it than have it become food waste. So, most of their costs are transportation, storage, and distribution. Each of those banks has their own per meal number based on their total costs divided by the estimated number of meals produced by the food they’ve distributed.
There are facilities that manage very high volume consistently and come in under $.10 per estimated resulting meal because they’re doing everything by the truckload, sometimes in networks of facilities that can maintain high volume consistently through predictable donation partnerships. In some other cases, the facilities might not be so lucky in terms of donation consistency or volume, and their costs may go up.
As specific examples, as of our last review the Des Moines, IA bank covers over 50 counties and reports $.47 per meal. The single centralized Alaska bank partners with 150 smaller banks and pantries covering nearly the entire state and reports $.33 per meal. Montgomery, AL is more localized and comes in around the middle at a reported $.20 per meal. Ft. Pierce, FL helps bring the average down for everybody reporting just $.12 per meal. And Yuma, AZ offsets a lot of those higher averages with very high volume reporting just $.09 per meal.
We also respond to short term crisis projects where the cost can be $1.00 per meal or more. For example, in an unexpected natural disaster like a hurricane where people rush to shelter and need to be fed or the traditional food supply to the area is temporarily cut off, everything is brought together in the moment and is consequently more expensive. Those meals are needed even if they do play with the average, and we hope you’ll join us in having a hard time saying no to a crisis!
While it doesn’t affect our numbers, many food bank networks and other charities also work with local communities to get people signed up with SNAP and other government programs. When successful, it adds a whole year of meals to their numbers for each person with little associated expense. That can really help the advertised per meal average. This often factors in when you see an organization that’s dramatically lower on per meal costs than everyone else. And we think that’s great. Those people wouldn’t have had the help without them. We’re just giving you the caveats for perspective. We don’t have the national boots-on-the-ground presence for that kind of outreach, so our numbers are based strictly on what gets spent.
All told, our average for all costs comes in at about $.237 per meal before payment processing fees, and $.248 per meal including payment processing fees. $25 per 100 meal block.
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7901 4th St N, Suite 13260
St. Petersburg, FL 33702