Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Adventures at the Food Pantry

Wednesdays are the day I work at Bristol Faith in Action, a local cooperative social justice center.  We primarily offer financial assistance, but we also, depending on the donations we receive, give out personal care kits (shampoo, toilet paper, etc.), baby supply kits, diapers, and food.  (A lot of people are surprised to hear that you can not buy diapers, toilet paper, tampons, or personal hygiene items with food stamps.)  Bristol has a large, well-run food pantry, and we at FIA give out vouchers for it, but we also keep our own small pantry, not in competition with them, but to serve our clients who for one reason or another can't use the town's main one.  We usually let our clients go back to our pantry and pick out what they and their families would like to eat.

Our little pantry is filled entirely though donations.  Today I took a break from my normal computer duties to unpack and sort several boxes of food given by one of our member churches.  We're very lucky right now, immediately post-Christmas:  our shelves are stacked. 

All donations are equal, but some are more equal than others.  Some of the really strange stuff--capers, anyone? buffalo hot wing seasoning?--goes straight into a box in the waiting room, for clients to help themselves.  Today I noticed that while we've got tons of some items, we have very little of others.  I bet your local pantry is the same.

We could really use more:
--peanut butter
--crackers (we can't store bread, so we give out saltines with the peanut butter)
--jelly (goes with the peanut butter and crackers!)
--canned fruit
--cereal
--canned stews, or other canned "meals" with meat
--dried pasta that's not mac-n-cheese
--canned or dried potatoes
--rice

We are very well stocked on:
--canned vegetables, especially green beans and corn (these are really popular, we've just got a lot)
--beans of all sorts, canned, dried, in sauce, out of sauce
--mac-n-cheese (another highly popular item)
--tomato products

If you're looking to give something to a pantry, I encourage donating anything you can't imagine being without.  Tampons, perhaps.  Sanitary pads.  Deodorant.  Baby wipes.  Or maybe dog or cat food?  A lot of the people going to food pantries these days have never had to before.  It's hard for me to imagine getting rid of a beloved pet because you lost your job.