My Trip to the Food Bank

GroceriesLaurie at The Frugal Farmer wrote a post a while back about how her mom worked really hard but just didn’t have enough money for groceries at one point. That post really stuck with me, and I vowed to find out more about the food banks in our community to see if there was something I could do to help. After I read an article in the local paper that asked for food donations,  I knew it was time for action. While I wasn’t really looking for a cheap route, I found out that giving food to the needy is actually one of the least expensive ways you can give back to the community.

Clean Out the Pantry

First I started with my own pantry. We’ve been doing really good about eating things we already have on hand, but sometimes you find food in your cabinet that you know you’ll never eat. I’m not sure why I had four jars of pickles. I also found a package of pre-made Spanish rice, a can of soup in a flavor we’d never eat,  and an unopened box of cereal that no one in my house likes. It makes me wonder if goblins stocked my pantry, but oh, well, I feel better knowing this stuff is going to get eaten by someone. We are truly not hungry enough to need it.

Look at Grocery Sales

On my most recent grocery trip, cereal was on sale for about a dollar a box. I added three extra boxes of Cheerios for the food bank. Canned vegetables were also on sale for $.67, so I grabbed a few of those. For just over $5 and what was in my pantry, I had two bags of food to give away. My neighbor’s garden is going bananas, and he gave us way more zucchini than we’ll ever eat, so I threw one of those in there too. I wasn’t sure if they took produce, but thought I would ask.

In the past, I’ve put canned food in the donation box at the front of the grocery store at Christmas, or I’ve given to the Boy Scouts when they come around for their annual food drive, bit I’ve never visited a food bank. That changed last week when I dropped off the food.

You Feed the Community From There?

I’m not sure what I was expecting, and I’m sure food banks are larger in the city, but this one was a really small place with a really small stockpile of food for the amount of people that come through there. I asked what their biggest need was.

The volunteer who was working told me to first buy whatever was on sale. They could use it. They did take some produce, so my zucchini will hopefully find a good home. She also said there was a big need for things like peanut butter, cereal, pasta, tuna, and canned soups. It also broke my heart to hear that cans that don’t require an opener are requested because small children can get into those if they have to fend for themselves.

Are You Judgmental?

I admit that I’ve had pretty harsh thoughts in the past when I’ve seen people paying with food stamps buying a cart load of convenience foods. We all know it’s cheaper to make foods from scratch, but I guess many food bank clients live out of cars or cheap motel rooms without stoves or refrigerators. I know there are plenty of people who work the system, but I’m going to try not to be so judgmental going forward.

I am also going to admit how lucky and spoiled I am because I don’t ever remember having to wonder if I would have food at the next meal time. I believe anyone can change their situation in life, but maybe they need some help along the way.  I think from now on, I will make it a part of my grocery shopping trips to add a few items for the food bank. I can only hope someone would do the same for me if I was ever in that situation.

Have you ever been to the food bank? What do you have in your pantry that will never get eaten?


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  1. Every few months I check in with our food bank to ask what they need the most, then publish that info via some industry organizations I’m involved with. Usually, the responses include deodorant and shampoo, which I had never thought of until the past few years! Kids lunch stuff is also on the list most of the time, like granola bars, juice boxes, fruit snacks and such.
    One thing to note is that many food banks get wicked pricing deals, so while it doesn’t feel as good for the giver, cash is usually the best gift we can give!

    1. I would have never thought deodorant and shampoo, but if you can’t afford food, I guess you can’t afford health and beauty products.

  2. I recently watched the documentary A Place at the Table, which was about food insecurity, a term I had not heard of. Because even if people are getting food, they are essentially still starving. Food banks are a double edged sword for me. On one hand I think they are great in feeding people, but most of the food, in my opinion, is not healthy. Processed and sugary foods…things high in sodium. It’s very possible to be overweight and hungry at the same time in America. It’s crazy! What’s the solution? I have no idea…maybe free community classes how to teach people to keep with cheap ingredients from scratch? I think another problem might be time. In the case of a single mother who might be working two jobs to make ends meet..she might not have the time to cook from scratch. In any case, it’s still a very BIG problem in our country. 🙁

    1. I used to be on a community health committee and that was a huge issue. People were getting tons of food assistance but buying crap and running out of food because they bought all microwave stuff. A huge issue was that the mom didn’t know how to cook. They offer cooking classes all the time, but they are poorly attended. I don’t think anyone should try and survive long term on food banks, but hopefully, it’s a short term solution until people can get out of transitional housing. I like to think those are the ones I’m helping. Crap food is cheaper. There is no way around that until there are enough community gardens or similar and people actually learn how and take the time to cook.

  3. No I am not judgemental at all and we have on more than one occasion donated to the food bank and any other organizations that need food. We used coupons in the past to get so much free stuff that it was nothing to donate as much as we could. Many of my fans that still coupon heavily donate but it doesn’t stop there because you don’t have to coupon to donate. We pick up items on dollar days and load up and drop them off as well. Every little bit helps.

    1. Sometimes I don’t get the free items when I stumble upon them if it’s not something we use, but I will from now on. I’ve also realized how spoiled we are with what we eat. If we were hungry we would not be so choosy.

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