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.
I may not get to a food bank for awhile but I can still talk about them. Going to a food bank here in my area you have no choice about what you get. You sign in, you get a box, you take it, and you go. I can’t eat all the highly sugared baked items or the boxes of cereal. But, I’m not supposed to turn them down. Hungry people take and eat what’s given, right?
Another example is when jars of peanut butter are given to a family with a child highly allergic to peanuts or a jar is given to a senior who already has 16 jars of peanut butter. No family should be forced to take another 5 lb cabbage if they have eaten cabbage so many times the last three months that they are sick of looking at it.
No one should be told to “take the potatoes” if the rotten smell coming from them is so nauseating its all you can do to carry them to the nearest alley garbage can. Yes, this has happened to me more than once. Its humiliating to take rotted food because we are struggling to feed ourselves.
I remember one pantry volunteer at the neighborhood church got upset when she saw a group of people outside going through the food to make trades. She told them to stop doing that and just take the food and leave. But what they were doing made lots of sense for them. No one family has the same needs as the next family or the next and they were trading according to need. I trade often. I want fresh produce but others want donuts and cakes. That’s an easy trade.
I was reading an article in a magazine while waiting at the senior commodity center a few weeks back. It was about a food bank someplace in New York that was letting people shop the food bank shelves like going to the grocery. Each family was given a number of points to spend each month according to family size. The points could be used all at once or spread out into once a week use. Recipients were called customers. That implies dignity. Customers are allowed a certain amount of produce, grain, protein and other foods, but within each category they can choose. All the foods on the shelves had point values. The healthier the food the fewer the points. Fresh produce had the lowest points.
At that center there were full time workers ready to help with menu plans and meal suggestions. People on food stamps were encouraged to work with a worker to create a meal plan before going to the grocery or shopping the pantry. People were eating much better by achieving a balance between food stamp use and food bank use.
The food bank could plan their purchases much better as well. Yes, lots of food is donated but a lot is purchased too. There was no need to purchase boxes of macaroni if there is plenty but the spaghetti is running low. The article went on to say that as a result of their new shopping system the food was helping almost double the amount of people.
I think this is the most practical idea ever for a food bank. I love it! I sure wish the food banks here would do this. It would mean the food could serve many more people. No more thrown away food because someone can’t eat it and no one else will take it.
The article went on to say that food banks around the country were reluctant to adopt the grocery store way of giving. A major reason seemed to be the tracking of the points. Citing small churches may not have access to a computer. Well heck, that shouldn’t stop them. People kept track of everything before computers were invented didn’t they? What’s wrong with a dated printed punch card? Buy something the amount gets punched off the card. When all the card is used leave it to be replaced with a new one next month. What’s wrong with old fashioned ledger books? Surely people can write and do addition or subtraction?
Well anyway, I think it would be a great idea to have all larger food banks run this way but who’s gonna listen to me?