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People Need to be Sustained, Too: Donations to Food Banks are Down While Need has Increased

food pantry donationsI read today that Second Harvest Heartland is having trouble keeping up with local demand for food. What I found interesting was one of the reasons. The decline in food donations is “in part, because there’s less waste from companies that produce and supply food.”

I wonder if there is less waste because companies are trying to be more responsible with their production methods. Or perhaps it’s because in today’s economy, they are being more efficient to keep costs down. Either way, it’s causing a dearth of food at the food bank. I did a little research, and it seems thatΒ  food banks across the U.S. are in extra need. Donations are down while need is up.

In Ohio, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank reported in August that for the first half of the year, food distributions increased 14%.

In Tacoma, Washington “food banks report that they are responding to increased visits from individuals needing food and are serving many families that have never used a food bank before.”

In Baltimore, Maryland “the number of customers the food bank serves has increased” and the food is “going out as fast as it comes in.”

I know that every week when I receive the electronic bulletin from my own church, there is a mention of the needs our food pantry has because it has seen an increase in use over the past few months.

A look at today’s headlines is enough to convince me that the need for donations to food pantries is only going to increase in the upcoming months. The media is running out of creative ways to say “the economy sucks” when writing headlines.

With the holidays just ahead, food pantries will be at their busiest. But the good news is that with the holiday season approaching, many of the staples that food pantries are in need of will go on sale in the grocery stores in the upcoming months. And if the food manufactures offer coupons for those staples as they have in the past, it’s often fairly inexpensive for those who have the means to make donations to do so.

I’m usually a proponent of shopping the edges of the stores where the most natural, whole foods can be found. But sometimes, and this is one of those times, there’s a need for going up and down the isles to buy processed, non-perishable items that food pantries can keep their shelves stocked with. If you’ve got the money, by all means buy the organic soups and pastas that are available to donate. But if those are not in your budget, go ahead and buy the conventional soup that’s buy one get one free that you have a coupon for and donate that.

If you’re unsure of what items are needed at a food pantry, I found a list from Community Action of Greene County, New York. The items that are on their list would work for any food pantry. Some food pantries also accept donations of fresh foods including meat and dairy products. You would need to contact the individual pantry that you are looking to donate to for specifics of what fresh foods they can accept.

I meet with a group of friends every Friday morning for coffee and fellowship, and last month we decided that we needed to do a service project once a month. This month, we’re going to help fill our church’s food pantry.

Would you consider donating to a local food pantry, too? Even if it’s just a few cans of soup or a box of pasta and a jar of spaghetti sauce, you can help others.

If you’re looking for a food pantry near you to donate to, or if you find yourself in need of some help, you can locate a pantry at pantrynet.org or contact a local house of worship. Don’t feel as if you need to be a member of the house of worship to contact them, most accept help from anyone in their community and are happy to help those outside of their congregation.

11 comments
  1. Lindsi

    Robin –

    Thanks so much for spreading the word. You make some good points. Definitely some things for folks to think about.

    Mostly I just wanted to say “thanks” for spreading the word about the great need at not only Second Harvest Heartland, but food banks across the nation.

    We appreciate your support!

    Lindsi Gish
    lgish@2harvest.org
    Second Harvest Heartland

  2. Bobby B.

    Follow the bouncing “green” ball for part of the answer. Thanks to green lobbying for subusidies and tariffs that encourage and protect domestic ethanol production, food prices have risen and food surpluses have started to dwindle.

    Now I know the greens rarely admit to making any mistakes, but maybe it is time to give credit where credit is due. You can not blame the farmer who gets more money for his ethanol crop than his food crop, and you should not blame the middle class since the cost of survival has vaporized the portion of its budget that used to go to charity.

  3. Robin Shreeves

    Bobby – always glad to see you here challenging us all. I don’t know who is to blame on a big level for this problem. And figuring out who is to blame isn’t going to solve the immediate need. Actually, this post isn’t blaming anyone, it’s just to make people aware that there is a need.

    This is just a call for regular people, who may have the means, to donate to their local food bank generously right now. To those who need food right now, it doesn’t matter why the pantries are running low, it just matters that they are running low. Because really, even if it is the greens fault (which I’m not familiar enough with the problem to say it is or isn’t), those who need food shouldn’t have to go without.

  4. Metyu

    “I’m not familiar enough with the problem to say it is or isn’t”

    Then why are you promoting the issue?

    There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone. It doesn’t get to them for some very simple reasons. You say “it doesn’t matter why the pantries are running low” but I call you on that and say, bullsh!t. Remember:

    Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he can eat for a lifetime.

  5. Robin

    Metyu – Please actually read the blog post. It has nothing to do with the green lobbying that Bobby was talking about. He’s the one who brought it up, and I don’t know enough about it to make a call. I would tell you to follow Bobby’s link and discuss it with him, but I just realized his link sends you to Yahoo.

    Bobby? Do you own Yahoo?

    All I’m promoting is an opportunity for people to help other people.

  6. Metyu

    I did read the article and if my comment offended you, it was unintentional. My intention is to make you and other readers think, not to offend.

    As with so many environmental writers, you [seem to] cower away from actually learning anything about your subject area and simply repeat regurgitated wisdom.

    My point remains: people need to learn how to fend for themselves, and you are not helping achieve that by allowing them to rely on you. It’s a bitter pill that causes some short-term pain, but it’s true.

  7. Robin

    Metyu – Your comment did not offend me. I’m not easily offended. But, I do get frustrated with commenters who stray from my actual post to push their agenda, yet somehow try to discredit my post while doing so.

    You also took my words out of context. When you said that I said “it doesn’t matter why pantries are running low” you left out the words immediately preceding “to those who need food right now”

    I absolutely didn’t say it doesn’t matter why, I said to the hungry it doesn’t matter why.

    As far as cowering away from trying to learn about my subject matter, I simply can’t research everything a commenter brings up. I’d spend all my time researching, never get work done, and end up in line at the local food pantry.

    I do understand that food banks are temporary solutions and that there are people who rely on them for most of their adult lives instead of “fending for themselves” as you put it. But I also know a lot of hard working, tax paying, middle class people who have hit rough patches and have been able to keep up with their mortgages because local food pantries provided them with a few weeks or few months of food for their families. From what I’ve read a lot of the increase in food pantry usage at the moment is from people just like that.

  8. Bobby B.

    I, like Robin, am not a professional blogger and keep a “normal” job. And also like Robin, I do not “back up” every discussion point with the appropriate reference material (mostly because the hyperlinks routinely block the comment from posting). However, use any search engine to search along the lines of “ethanol food shortage” and you will find plenty.

    Do I own Yahoo!? That’s a hoot. πŸ˜‰

    Sorry for listing Yahoo! as my website. However, it is my home page and I frequent it for email; so it seemed like the logical choice. I only own a little Yahoo! stock. If I owned the company outright, I might have more disposable income to donate to charity. Unfortunately, the cost of living has been outpacing the increases to my income but I am working on that.

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