Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
Dare to Care gives away fresh produce every week in my area. The food being distributed is food that’s blemished or about to expire. It’s food that normally would end up in a dumpster and eventually a landfill. This is a really great program with one very important flaw. Let me explain what I know about the program first and then I’ll explain what I see as the flaw.
The program gives fresh produce to those who live in a produce desert. What is a produce desert? Usually it’s an area of high poverty where the availability of fresh produce is nearly non-existent. Fresh produce is often bought in little neighborhood convenience stores and most often consists of a few over ripe onions or potatoes. Except for bananas anything green, yellow, orange, or red rarely shows up in food desert produce bins.
Dare to Care has teamed up to accept about to expire or blemished foods from various places and distribute it in locations around the county. I don’t know about other counties or states. I only know about ours. The produce distribution program keeps perfectly good food from going into dumpsters simply because it reached it’s “sell by” date. Or because one apple in a bag had a bruise on it. Or because one potato in a bag grew an eye sprout. The program also keeps people from dumpster diving to get food.
The produce given by Dare to Care might be well past prime or it might be bruised and sometimes have a rotting smell. But if that’s all a person is able to get then it looks and smells just fine.
I don’t want anyone thinking I’m complaining about the program. Heavens no! I’m happy we get the produce instead of it being put into a landfill. I’m very happy to go with my neighbors and all of us stand in line for the foods given away each week. What one doesn’t want, another of us will take. We all share together.
The Dare to Care fresh produce program helps stretch the budgets of those in poorer neighborhoods. I mean really, if a person must live on day old bread and discount table produce, then getting it free is better than using limited funds. Isn’t it? I buy discounted foods all the time to help stretch my budget. Free is even better than discount.
The program also keeps people from looking for food in grocery dumpsters. Yes, I did that too. Instead of putting past prime food into a dumpster it is given to the Dare to Care program. The Dare to Care program distributes it to areas of low income families. It’s given to anyone willing to show up and stand in line. It’s a really, really good program.
So what’s the one flaw in an other wise great program? Well, it’s like this, some of the foods given out eventually end up in the recipient’s garbage can because they don’t know what it is, how to prepare it, or how to eat it. What can you do with a food you don’t know how to prepare or eat? Now really, think about it, what if someone gave you a really strange looking piece of food from…. say, the rain forest…. you don’t know if it’s a fruit, a veggie, or something else. Would you know what to do with it? Ok, you’d probably look it up online wouldn’t you? But what if you are like the low income who don’t have access to the internet? No way to figure out what you have. If you are like so many Dare to Care recipients, you toss out what you don’t know about.
I usually know something about every item we receive. A few weeks back we got something that stumped even me. We got an unmarked bag of what looked like dried fruit of some type. Looked a little like raisins but was too round and seedy to be raisins. No raisin smell either. Actually there wasn’t much of smell or taste for that matter. I couldn’t figure out what it was or what to do with it so it got tossed out. I asked the workers if they knew what it was. No one did. Someone told me later that it was dried figs. Well DUH! I would have liked experimenting with figs. Cookies, jam, pies. The possibilities were endless. I’ll know next time. If there’s a next time for figs.
If the Dare to Care would only ask, “what is this?” when a food is donated then the people receiving it can be told. A simple fix for a small flaw in a very, very good program. Do you agree?