Eight million plates of food in four months

A reportage on Panamanian television brings to light the extraordinary work of the Food Bank of Panama – linked to the Augustinian Recollects – during the pandemic.

The unexpected outbreak of the pandemic throughout the world has disrupted, among many other things, the daily work that the Food Bank of Panama had been doing. The number of people it served has tripled with COVID-19; hundreds of thousands of people have requested the help of the institution so as not to fall into food insufficiency. This is shown in the documentary of the Food Bank of Panama produced by TVN Noticias and Telemetro, two of the most important television stations in the country. The documentary, of 24 minutes duration, brings out the work of the BAP volunteers during the pandemic to attend the most pressing requests.

The audiovisual collects the testimony of people who, with their efforts, face poverty from their daily work. The institution emerged in 2014, animated by the Augustinian Recollects in the parish of San Lucas in Costa del Este, Panama. It was promoted by the Augustinian Recollect Miguel Angel Ciaurriz, along with several collaborators, and blessed by the Augustinian Recollect Cardinal Jose Luis Lacunza. The objective then was to help the approximately 400,000 people who were living in food insecurity; that is, with only one meal a day, as Ana Isabel Mendez, manager of the Food Bank, explains. Currently the institution is linked to the Augustinian Recollect International Solidarity Network ARCORES.

​José Luis Carbonell, president of the BAP, indicates that the model of work was to save the food whose containers were damaged or had not been sold, and could be distributed to the thousands of people in a situation of poverty for their nourishment. However, the initial figure of 400,000 people has tripled in recent months, as a result of COVID-19. Thanks to the donations of individuals, companies, banks and institutions that donated some of their funds to make it possible for the Panama Food Bank to distribute eight million plates of food in four months, according to Vicky Alemán, president of the Board of Directors of the Panamanian Chamber of Social Development. According to Carbonell, “of every dollar you donate, 95 cents reach the beneficiary”.

The reportage explains the procedure that follows: day by day volunteers examine the food, check that it is not overdue and take charge of organizing it and delivering it to the beneficiary organizations, since the BAP does not deliver directly to the people. Also, the audiovisual reveals other innovative formulas, such as the donation of individuals in supermarkets when they make their purchases. They can donate from one dollar upwards. Many Panamanians have not stood idly by and organized themselves to make their resources and efforts available to those most in need. All, including the Augustinian Recollects in Panama, have one goal: to fight hunger in Panama.