No re-usable containers for the food bank

lathechuck's picture

I buy peanut butter in the largest jars possible, about 2 lbs, and re-fill the jars with beans, nuts, grains, and pasta when buying in bulk or in packaging that might not keep out insect infestation. It occurred to me that the local food bank might want to distribute beans and/or rice bought in bulk in such jars, so I offered them some. They very politely explained that it wouldn't work for them. When they get, say, rice in a 50 lb. bag, they portion it out into ziploc bags, 1 lb. at a time. So, they have a process that works for them. Secondly, they don't have the resources to ensure that old containers are sanitary. I do, of course, but they don't know that. And, I suppose that their customers are likely and/or expected to eat the food they get promptly, not stash it in a pantry.

It was an educational experience for me. The distribution process itself, in case you're interested, is nothing like shopping. The bank fills bags in advance, and each client that shows up on Saturday morning gets "a bag". No selection, just grab your bag and make room for the next customer. I hope that their customers are willing and able to eat what they get, or otherwise ensure that it doesn't go to waste.

The other thing I observed is that the distribution starts around 9:30, advertised at 10:00, and dozen or so cars were lined up at 9:00. Almost all of them were idling their engines! If I had to take free food, I wouldn't burn a drop of gasoline that I didn't need to. (That said, some clients walk to and from the food bank. I have to give them credit for that!)

I would like to think that if the food the clients of your food bank received wasn't to their liking or they couldn't use it, they would just give it back. My husbands best friend from junior high is on disability and has many health problems that keep him from working, so he gets rent and food assistance. However, he can't or won't eat what is given to him, so we end up taking most of it back to the food bank for him. He is definitely on the autism spectrum somewhere, so he can't or won't tell the people who bring him the food box what he is willing or able to eat. The food bank people don't seem to think it is a problem to take it back.

It's a mindset. I wouldn't dream of letting my car's engine run if I'm parked. I'm not going to waste the gas.

A number of years ago, I had to pick up oldest child at elementary school at the end of the day. It was that or let him sit on the bus for a two hour ride in both the am and the pm because we were at the end of the line even though we were about fifteen minutes from the school if I was driving. Too far and too unsafe to walk of course. The district periodically rearranged the lines and your times changed from year to year. It spread out the pain.

I would park at the far end of the lot, where there was plenty of open parking and hike to the building. I'd retrieve oldest child and we would walk back and leave while everyone else sat in their cars, engine running, in line, and waited. And waited. And waited to crawl forward.

I could not understand it. Sometimes when we had food co-op, I'd arrive half an hour before school let out and there were ALREADY women in line, waiting to pick up their kids. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

No one and I mean NO ONE else seemed willing to park and walk.

Gas is cheap.

ClareBroommaker's picture

Spurning perfectly good donations of food and ways to distribute food seems crazy to me. I think it was Blueberry who told of his fresh vegetable donation to a food bank being doused with bleach as a way of taking it out of any possible use.

I would think the smaller the food bank you go to, the more likely they are to use your donations. Maybe a place that calls itself a pantry rather than a bank. I worked in such a place years ago. We would gladly have accepted and used your donation. We would have used Blueberry's donation, too. Get me away from bureaucracies and overblown safety ideas when there are people who are hungry. I can wash the darn peanut butter jar if I am uncertain of its cleanliness.

lathechuck's picture

A friend of mine once told me about a member of his church who would glean food items that "fussy people" rejected, and redistribute them to the needy. The problem, though, was that his standards were so low, and his ideas of safe handling so lax, that much of what he gave away really belonged in the garbage by the time it got to "the needy"!

A large organization must protect itself from (possibly bogus) legal claims. Sometimes considered "the courtroom lottery", there are people who look for excuses to claim damages whenever something doesn't turn out quite the way they thought it should. Those packages we get with the foil seals under the jar lid? Those aren't just for the consumer's benefit. They protect the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer from claims about contaminated products. Even a non-profit food bank might have enough money to be a target for a scam.