Friday, November 6, 2009

Please Don't Give Food To Food Banks.

Stay with me on this.

My neighborhood food bank, Lakeview Pantry, is one of my favorite charities. They do great work right here in my neighborhood at very low cost, and they use food as an entry point for assisting their clients with other needs, such as clothing, housing and employment. I donate to them whenever I can.

I encourage everyone to support their local food bank, but please give them money, not food. The reason is simple. Unless you are a food producer yourself (farmer, processor), you probably will buy all the food you plan to donate. Since very few of us are food producers, virtually all food donations start with the donor buying the food at a supermarket.

Why is this a bad idea? In addition to it being a hassle, lugging all that food from place to place, you are cheating the charity out of the full value of your intended donation. You might be the smartest shopper in town but I guarantee that the food bank can make a dollar go much further than you can. Plus, they can't pay the electric bill with macaroni.

Yet this is counterintuitive to most people and when I have tried to make this argument in the past, I have gotten some really angry responses. People just don't get it. Part of the problem is that food producers and retailers heartily support food drives. Why wouldn't they? It's more money for them. The food pantrys don't discourage it, also for obvious reasons. They're afraid that if they tell people, "don't give us food," they won't get anything.

Food drives have their place, especially when children are involved, because it helps them understand the importance of feeding hungry people, but if you are older than about ten you should be able to grasp this simple logic. A check for $25 dollars feeds many more hungry people than the $25 you spend on their behalf at the supermarket. By all means, write that check, but let the food bank do the shopping.


Oscar said...

I never thought about it before but that makes a heck of a lot of sense.

Unknown said...

Your logic is a bit flawed my friend. You must not have spent much time helping out/volunteering at a Food Bank.
People come to a Food Bank for (this may surprise you) FOOD! If you do not donate food to the food bank and only give them money then they must take the time to drive to the grocery store to get the food people need (time and money (gas) wasted-- an extra step that could have been avoided if you have just brought them FOOD!
Take it from someone who volunteers at several food banks that the BEST thing you can do is donate FOOD!! (and/or your time!!!!!)
If you are REALLY concerned about their power bill you could just pay that in addition to giving food (almost all the utility expenses are covered by citizens that volunteer/donate their time --except for those organizations that are subsidized by the Gov't)

Happy Holidays and Good tidings my bourbon brother!!

Chuck Cowdery said...

You're ignoring the most important point; buying power. If the food bank where you help out is going to a supermarket and paying full retail for food, that's a badly run food bank. Since you volunteer at several food banks, show my essay and your reply to someone who runs a food bank and see what they say.