Local supermarkets and food suppliers are being approached to provide out- of-date or damaged food items to the facility, which is expected to be based in a large warehouse in Tralee.
Behind the move are the Society of St Vincent de Paul and North and East Kerry Development.
Smaller food banks may also be set up at a later date in other Kerry towns, depending on demand.
Tralee SVP president, Junior Locke, said there was a definite need for a food bank and the number of people seeking help had been increasing in the past few years. “We work a voucher system which is costing the society a lot of money.
“We’re looking at ways of saving money and have the support of supermarkets. Food banks are working well in other areas,” he said.
Mr Locke said the society had helped more than 1,500 people in Tralee town and its hinterland last Christmas.
Robert Carey, of NEKD, said there was potentially a two-fold benefit from the food bank — it would aid hungry people and would help eliminate waste in the food supply and retail sectors.
“Supermarkets try to cut down on waste as much as possible. Due to the nature of the business, there is large-scale waste and it costs money to dump it. It’s an advantage to supermarkets to have this [food bank] system,” he said.
He said the response from supermarkets and the food industry was “very positive”.
A food bank system already operates in Dublin and Kilkenny, and there are plans to establish one in Cork, but the system here is not as well developed as it is in Britain.
While St Vincent de Paul provides food vouchers to people, the society now feels a bigger, more professional system is needed to cope with the problem and British systems are being closely examined.
Surveys have shown that one-fifth of children in this country go to school hungry, with the recession and high unemployment exacerbating problems for hard-pressed families.