Monday, December 23, 2013

Can You Spare a Square? What Food Pantries Really Need.

Gratuitous photo of my pantry because I love the Tupperware!

Christmas is just two days away! How did this happen so fast? My mother asked me, just this week "What happened to December tenth through the Nineteenth?" No, she's not a crackhead. I think she spent that time sewing quilts for some of the little cousins. But really, It feels the same to me - as if someone had grabbed a giant straw and sucked a big chunk of days right out of our month. Here I sit two days before Christmas, with gifts yet to buy. I have not sent out Christmas cards. My cousin said mine was usually the first one they got. She wonders what happened to me. I explained that I used to make them myself and I would start in the summer. Now I buy them, and I can never find some I like so I refuse to buy any and I end up with nothing. At this point, should I even bother with them?

This is not at all what I came here to talk about today. My mother posted a link to this article on facebook this morning. I want to share it with all five of you who read my blog. Ten things food banks need but will not ask for.  It hit me because the shelves at our local food pantry were so bare last spring that Romeo's pizza organized the local high schools to do an emergency food drive. We live in a fairly affluent area. The most wealthy county in the state. Even so, we have more and more people at the Sharing Center  at St. Paul's in Sharon Center all the time. 

From the list in this article I can tell you I have never seen spices at the Sharing Center. Sometimes we have a rogue packet or ten of taco seasoning, but nothing beyond that. I have never seen even salt and pepper. I never even thought about it, honestly. Feminine products? I don't think I have ever seen them, either. Believe it or not, I have never seen crackers or tortillas, but everyone does love them. I've seen baby formula one time. Ditto baby food. Not much of that is donated. I assumed it was because there are other programs, like Women, Infants, Children? We get a lot of canned pears and peaches along with pineapple. If there is cream-of-anything soup? It's a big hit. Not a lot of it gets donated. Before a holiday there will be 'holiday' items like a turkey breast or a small ham. I don't know if there always is, but they do try. Boxes of stuffing mix and instant potatoes and cranberry sauce, etc. 

Toiletries? This is always the area which makes me feel terrible. When a person is asking for a $1 package of toilet paper and you have to point to the little tag on the shelf which says "1-2 people  -  1 roll" and open a package and take out a single roll and hand it to them? It's humiliating. For both of you. Proctor & Gamble, are you reading this? No? Dangit. Kimberly Clark? Anyone? Hi mom! Hi Tamara & Ilene! If there is laundry detergent, people always choose it as one of the two personal items (per family) they are allowed. Dog food? Cat food? These are very important items as well. I wish I could remember which pet someone was talking about last time when they said "There is never anything for..." was it birds? I honestly can't remember. But it hurts. 

So I guess what I'm saying is this: If you are so inclined, I would love for you to find out which little local food pantry is close to you and donate straight to them. Not the food bank - because the little local pantries have to buy from the food bank. Donate straight to your local place. Take some case of special treats. Or spend an extra $36 at Sam's Club or Costco and take them a couple of giant packages of Charmin. Use coupons to get wicked good deals and deliver toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry detergent. Go fancy and drop off some fabric softener. Or break the mold and take a case of crackers. Round up a few neighbors or friends, or if you are super desperate, even family members(!) and drop off a load of stuff. 

If you do? Thank you! You just made life better for a handful of families! If you can not do it right now, that's okay. Some day, though, you'll find a long lost $20 in your jeans and you can go drop off 20 packages of Dollar Tree toilet paper. Someone will be thankful for it. 


  1. Hi back! Hi Ilene! Hi, Kimberly Clark! This is eye-opening. Chocolate! Of course. We have donated entire hams and turkeys and chickens, but never thought.."Hey..a treat. Imagine what life would be like without treats."
    Thank you. And I love the shout-out.

  2. You know I repost very few things on Facebook but when I saw Linda Krueger post this I thought it something that needed as much reposted as possible. Thanks for helping spread these thoughts further. You are my good girl.

  3. I was going to delete that comment and correct it but...just correct in your own head!

  4. Thanks so much for this post, Tammi, and your kind endorsement. I have personally been on both ends of this case. I have volunteered at two local food pantries, restocking the shelves. I have also been on evacuation from a hurricane (Rita 9/05) that decimated my hometown and kept me away from my home, work, church, family and friends for a month while trees were cleared and infrastructure brought back online, In that month, I was allowed a visit to the Salvation Army warehouse in Dallas. There was no toilet tissue left, no pet food and one box of tampons, from which I was allowed to take a few. It was very humbling.

  5. This was eye opening to me (and Hi Tammi and Tamara right back :) Because I have NEVER thought of some of these things. Chocolate will now go to the top of my list. I am one who "can't live without it." Why would I expect anyone to live without it?

  6. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and hope you have a prosperous New Year (popped over from Sverve).

  7. Visiting from Sverve and very glad I did. This is definitely eye opening. A treat would be nice, wouldn't it? But most of us really don't think about that. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. From the receiving end of it, I can tell you it's overwhelming to get a cart full of groceries - and to see your then 7-year-old child search through cartons of canned soup to find her sister's favorite. These little odds and ends - the peanut butter cups, lotion, candy - they're tossed in a bin at the end, and a family can take one or two as they finish.

    When we were in need, the cart of groceries made us feel quite appreciative; the extra treat in the end made us feel human.

  9. Great points! I was much better at donating when my kids were in school...I need to get involved again. Thanks for the nudge :)