One time when I was volunteering at the Cherry Street Food Bank, a woman came through the grocery line and asked for 10 cans of expired cream of chicken soup, an ancient tin of Vienna sausages, a bag of novelty pasta shaped like genitalia and some Herbalife meal replacement packets.
That never happened, because no one wants those things. And yet, these are all actual examples of items that actually get donated during the fall and winter food drive season.
We’re in the thick of it now; a week after Thanksgiving, when many of us can finally button the top button again, we may find ourselves thinking about those in need. People for whom hunger is a reality, and who are often forced to make due with cheap, nutritionally-devoid meal choices. In the holiday spirit, folks may think about donating to a local food bank.
Unfortunately, it’s the next step that turns good intentions into an unintentional mess.
Instead of donating food that was canned in this century, people often view the food pantry as a guilt-free way to clear out their home shelves. Deceased relative? Donate the Eisenhower-era green beans to Northwest Harvest. Empty-nester who no longer needs these half-empty boxes of PopTarts? Little Free Pantry it is.
Remember the Golden Rule from your school days? It pertains to charitable giving as well as playground socializing: only give unto others as you would want to receive yourself.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Hey, if I were hungry, I’d gladly chow down on a bowl of pasta that was leftover from a bachelorette party.”
And maybe that’s the case. Maybe you have no dietary restrictions, no allergies, no chronic conditions and no ability to taste the difference between stale bread and bread that was baked before the COVID pandemic hit. Maybe you really would eat anything.
But you shouldn’t have to. This fall and winter, when you think about donating to food drives, consider spending a relatively small amount on items you’d actually want to eat. When in doubt, snatch up one or two of those coupons for $1, $5 or $10 at the checkout lines and donate cash instead. It fits everyone’s dietary needs and it saves you a trip.
As for the expired, dented, weird, gross, gag and recalled food at the back of your cupboard, you have permission to just throw that out.
It’s already basically wasted — and trying to pawn it off on a person who is also dealing with housing and food insecurity won’t make it any less wasteful.
Read more of the Dec. 1-7, 2021 issue.