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Food Banks..do you give?

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Love helping others out and seen on the news that Food Banks are really struggling with food supply.
Loved to know how other Chowhounder's give of there charitable time..
For the holidays, I support several families with food gift cards from large grocery stores, Target cards..etc.
One day, I hope to do give more, all year long..
I try and round up as many canned goods to the Food Banks and drop them off as well.
I found the wonderful families through the AME Church in La Jolla..

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  1. the big box grocery stores around here make it easy, whenever I shop there, i slash one item from my list, and purchase the $5 food bank card at the register. I can easily afford to go without one thing, and that $5 makes a big difference to the food bank.

    When I shop at a smaller grocery (which is becoming more frequent), I put a $5 in my charity box at home which we donate when it gets full.

    1. At least twice a year, we head to the store. Both daughters get a budget to spend, and a list of the things for which the food bank has expressed a recent need.

      We started doing this when they were 3. They are almost 7 now, and are already asking about our November trip and researching what the food Bank needs. Last year they worked it out so that one purchased as many turkeys as she could for her money, and the other bought the sides. Their idea. Very cute. You have 10 turkeys, that means I have to get 10 of everything too.

      1. Agree with all, money at the register or your local food bank go a long way. You can also volunteer at your local food bank to sort donations and stock shelves. Some churches and soup kitchens need people to help serve Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. You could volunteer as a family. How wonderful you've got your girls involved at an early age, lgphil.

        Also, take advantage of free stuff. I get mailings from my local grocery stores for freebies. I always pick them up, even if I can't use them myself, for exactly this reason. Jars of peanut butter, cans of tuna, bottles of apple juice, salad dressings will all keep until there's a drive. The postal carriers have a drive every May in my area. My bank is just now holding an October drive.

        There's always a flurry of activity around the holidays, and while that's not a bad thing, this is an issue that's year-round, and likely to get worse in the coming months, I fear.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nemo

          <Also, take advantage of free stuff. I get mailings from my local grocery stores for freebies. I always pick them up, even if I can't use them myself, for exactly this reason. Jars of peanut butter, cans of tuna, bottles of apple juice, salad dressings will all keep until there's a drive. The postal carriers have a drive every May in my area. My bank is just now holding an October drive.>

          I used to do the same thing when I was living in US and was a not-so-well-off graduate student. I would get all the free stuff available, even if it is not something I'd normally eat and then donate. I also loved the freebies at Walgreens for the same reason. I would collect lots of free beauty products, even if they do not suit my skin or hair type (not that I have much hair) and donate all at the woman's shelter.

          In Canada it is harder to get that kind of freebies, and I do not want to assume what shelters might need. Besides I make much more than I used to make, so I just automatically donate a proportion of my paycheck to a shelter every two weeks. My employers arrange everything. I kind of feel like it is not even a donation, but one of those taxes/compulsory payments that need to be deducted so I still try to give more whenever I have the chance.

        2. I live in Charlottesville, VA and there's a great program in town called Holiday Sharing run by Madison House which is a sort of volunteer clearing house for UVA students.

          Through the program you can donate non-perishable food items, gift certificates/cards for perishable food items and a holiday gift for a family. My wife and I sponsor a family each year which entails providing 3 holiday meals worth of food and gifts for each member of the family. The families are identified through the Salvation Army who also works with them to find out what gifts they need/want.

          We also give to local food banks and to America's Second Harvest (they just changed their name, but I can't remember the new one) but the Holiday Sharing program always feels particularly good to work with.

          1. I volunteer for the North Texas Food Bank and love it! I also do a little bit for the Salvation Army...when we had Hurricane Ike evacuees, i helped serve some of them staying at the University of North Texas...i know they were happy to get meals, but i felt bad at the very basic food that they were having to eat. I remember watching something on Hurricane Katrina a few years ago and some chefs had volunteered and were cooking up so DELICIOUS looking food using the basic ingredients supplied by food banks. I wish i had that ability so that the people being served would not just be grateful for a meal, but be grateful for a truly outstanding meal.

            1. I volunteer a few hours a month at the N-E Ohio food bank and I also cook 2 meals a month at the local free meal program.

              1. Any and all donations of any kind are appreciated, but cash is absolutely, hands down the most useful donation to any food bank. Many have long-term contracts and have been able to lock in prices for commodities that are lower than what we pay in the store. Also, cash doesn't require anyone to use gas to pick up and deliver food donations. Moreover, food banks know their clientele and are able to use cash to purchase things that their particular customers eat (for example, we have a local food bank that has a high percentage of Asian customers, and all food banks are constantly short of baby food).

                And as nemo mentions, food insecurity (which is what we have in this country, rather than hunger) knows no season. When school is out for December holidays, spring break, or the summer, many children lose one or two meals a day, possibly the only balanced meals they have.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Erika L

                  I only give cash to food banks now, and only directly to them, not through any other means (i.e. stuffing $10 into a donation box). Not sure how it is in other places, but food banks in Canada are registered charities, so I get a receipt and count it as a tax deduction. So rather than spending say $100 on food to donate, I can give about $125 cash and it works out equal in terms of my actual monetary output.

                  And, every year, Kraft matches cash donations in made in September, so that is the month I usually hand over a few hundred $ to my local food bank

                  1. re: Dan G

                    Another benefit of donating cash is that food banks often buy in bulk from wholesalers and get more for their dollar than I can get for mine at my local Safeway. It feels a little less rewarding somehow than showing up with an armload of groceries, but it's more efficient at getting the food banks the maximum amount of exactly what they need when they need it.

                    1. re: mordacity

                      To further drive home the pro side of cash donations is matching grants. Many food banks operating on matching grants can double your dollars when corporate or foundations encourage matching programs. My money was match dollar for dollar this year.

                2. awesome replies..

                  1. I don't know if all food banks do this (I live in a small, rural town) but ours takes fresh from the garden veggies and fruit from home orchards. This year I put an ad up at the radio website for our town asking people to call if they had fruit they wanted to donate and was flooded with calls (Thank you kind people of Port Angeles!!). I am in the process of visiting each home and gratefully picking piles of apples, plums and pears (as well as at my own home). So far - I would guess I have picked and delivered 2 truckloads and I am nowhere near done. Yeah!!! I will try to remember a photo next time I pick (weather).

                    1. I don't know what food pantrys are like in smalltown USA, but I do know what they're like in the big city. I worked in a food pantry in one of the poorest districts in the nation - Mott Haven, the south Bronx. People lined up outside at 6am rain or shine, sometimes in the freezing cold, to get food. It's an image I won't soon forget. I will always remember the young children who would come with their mothers. It was great to see a smile appear on a kid's face when they were able to go home with a box of cereal after having waited in line.

                      This thread is a good reminder, for me at least, that this year we have to remember to donate to food banks regardless of what happens on Wall street. The $700B bail out bill is not going to cover food costs for anybody, unfortunately. We'll have to give generously the best we can.

                      1. Food drives at school. Translator at local homeless shelter.

                        1. Our church runs a food pantry, and we were just talking about how a lot of people who used to donate to it are now having to use it instead, and they're having trouble keeping up with the demand... and I know that's true everywhere. So if you can manage it, every day is a good day to donate, not just Christmas.

                          1. Our Mustang club collects donations at every meeting for a local food bank. When we started weight watchers we donated all the things we were no longer going to eat. I try to make sure DH has something to take with him each time he goes.
                            When we lived in DC we took a trunk load of frozen turkeys to a food bank downtown 2-3 times at thanksgiving.
                            I like the idea of $5 for each grocery visit - we can certainly afford that! So many people in need, especially in this economy.
                            In my mother's smaller town one of their grocery stores has a "round up" where your bill is rounded to the next highest dollar amount (or any amount you say) and the change goes to the local food bank. All those dollars add up!

                            1. I like to give and also help out. Last year a group of us went to an HIV hospice home, purchased groceries, cooked, served and ate with the folks. It's a great feeling to be able to help others who are in need. I'm feel fortunate that I can donate some food, cooking skills and time.

                              1. Christmas and Thanksgiving are huge times for donations and the place where I volunteer overflows with food. There have been times when I've offered my basement until they can start clearing. It's a good problem to have but summers are the times when pantries run dry. I don't know if it's that people are on vacation, it's hot, no holidays but children are home in the summer so they don't get free/reduced breakfasts and lunches. It's probably the time when the most food is needed and less is given.

                                1. None of the Big Grocery Stores that I go to in SD have the $5 to the Food Bank..that would be wonderful if they did..
                                  I'm calling corporate tomorrow..

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs have the donation cards next to the cash registers in increments of $5, $10 and $25. You pick up a card and hand it to the cashier. They've had them before the first set of fires in 03.

                                    1. re: Cathy

                                      I have never seen them at any of the forementioned..
                                      I will look more closely..thanks Cathy!

                                  2. We have an organization called "community Servings" that brings meals to people with HIV/ Aids and others who are unable to get out. They set it up so you can donate by a monthly automatic credit card payment. That way they can plan ahead, knowing that they will get the monthly donation. The Boston Food Bank is a huge operation and I send them checks from time to time. Giving to these places is a first priority for me in giving, since, as a person who lives to eat, I just cannot imagine how awful it is to go hungry. With all the food and the waste of food in this country there is no excuse for hunger.

                                    1. Our local school district assists with collections at Thanksgiving. I make a massive run to Smart and Final purchasing pasta, peanut butter, rice, and water. I also watch sales so that anytime another frequently-requested item (chili, beans, etc.) goes on sale, I can purchase a large amount and add them to the batch. I have a cupboard in the garage dedicated to those items. My daughter-units also caught the volunteer bug when they did it for their girl scout troops assisting with bagging items. We now devote time to helping them randomly throughout the year.

                                      I never think about a grocer card, though. Don't know why... I might actually look into it.

                                      1. Nnearly every time I go shopping (~ 5 x/week) I purchase something. for donation. I use coupons, and watch for sales. Last week one grocer had its own brand of mac 'n cheese on sale for 4/dollar. The packaging looks just like Kraft, and it tastes the same. I bought the limit, and went back another day and purchased more. Another grocer I was able to purchase brand name cereal (on sale and with coupons) for one dollar a box. After sale they went up to over $4.00. Typically, I buy cans, but also shampoo, soap, etc, that with a little planning you can get almost free.

                                        1. I make monetary donations when I can, and take the opportunity to clean out my own pantry whenever we have a food drive at work (why I buy 4 cans of tuna when I only use 1/year is beyond me...). I also started a new birthday tradition for myself and my family - my b-day is a week before Christmas, right about the time that our local food bank gets swamped w/donations, overwhelmed with requests, and loses lots of volunteers to travel/vacation. So for my b-day each year the family spends Saturday at the food bank, usually sorting huge containers of hodge-podge donations into smaller boxes by category.

                                          I don't know about all food banks, but our also distributes pet food and other pet care products. Just something to keep in mind, especially at a time when lots of people who used to be fairly comfortable are suddenly finding themselves in need - they could afford Fluffy when they got her, but can't anymore...

                                          1. Absolutely! I donate quarterly & also volunteer. On a national level, and as a restaurant industry professional I also support the programs and efforts of Share Our Strength. One of their programs, Operation Frontline works through local Food Banks and other organizations. They teach low income families and HIV patients how to shop within their budget, make healthy food choices and cook healthy meals for their families. The best part is that they not only provide the education to the parents, but also to the kids!

                                            Whenever your city is having a Restaurant Week, it's almost always a vehicle to raise funds for Food Banks and other hunger relief organizations. Yes, they usually offer some great deals but by dining at participating restaurants, you are really helping raise funds to feed those in needs in your area!

                                            1. We support our local mission that provides meals throughout the year. For special meals (Christmas and Thanksgiving) we sponsor a table - we pay for the meals of ten people.
                                              We didn't want wedding gifts when MrCris and I got hitched last year, so asked people to bring a donation to the Food Bank. People were incredibly generous, spending as much on food as they would have on a gift. We had flats and flats of food piled in our yard, and people started to label their contribution with what they would have bought us - so a flat of canned tuna became 'a new crockpot', and the tower of baby food became 'dining room chairs'.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: MrsCris

                                                A lot of food banks/shelters LOVE toiletries. If you travel a lot, save those small soaps, shampoos etc. from your hotel rooms and bring them in. The literacy center I work at has periodic drives for those types of items, and I like to also bring in some disposable toothbrushes with toothpaste in the brush; you can buy them inexpensively in bulk.

                                                1. re: bibi rose

                                                  Target and Costo are excellent sources - personal size items and tons of razors in a package of 50......

                                                  1. re: Siobhan

                                                    Ask first. Some places don't want single-use items; their clients are not usually homeless and have a shower like you and me, and those single-use things can be annoying to use.

                                                    1. re: smittys

                                                      Shelters-places where people stay overnight or a few days make use of the personal size items. Food Banks are for food.

                                                      Cash is best for either facility.

                                                      1. re: Cathy

                                                        Ask first is still a good rule. Our local food bank accepts personal care products (all sizes) and pet food in addition to the standard canned goods... The local homeless shelter excepts food, personal care (all sizes) and clothes.

                                                        But I do agree, cash is best. Food banks and shelters can usually get much more for a dollar than the rest of us.

                                                        Person power is also much appreciated at many. Piles of food are good, but someone has to sort/package/deliver it, and often that someone is a volunteer.

                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                          Cash is best for the organizations to get exactly what they need.

                                                          I remember in September 2001. I was in Detroit and people wanted to help and were tossing random things into volunteered semi trucks to drive to NYC. Donated cases of water bottles of different sizes, clothing, random canned goods. Things were just piled and getting ruined. Especially since nobody was left homeless, per se, I imagine a lot of waste happened.

                                                          Same thing out here in San Diego after the fires in 03 and 07. People do not want other people's clothes and used stuff if they are not Thrift Store shoppers. Multiple gift cards were handed out by the Red Cross and all foods were uniform in purchase and disbursement. They would not hand out food brought into the shelters.

                                                          I have volunteered for 26+ years, but only between May and the end of October. People start to volunteer for Thanksgiving and go through the holidays and maybe as a New Year resolution...then it is spring and summer and they have 'other things' to do...

                                              2. Our church lists the items they need every week in the bulletin - peanut butter, hearty soups, school snacks, juice boxes, etc - which usually co-incides nicely with the local sales. When I buy diapers, baby food, etc, I use the "one for them, one for me method". Once in a while, I go to our local ethnic supermrket and try to pick things that might not be on the typical list - seasonings and sweets that might not be on the usual supermarket shelf - I suggest this because the ethnic stuff never makes it in.

                                                1. Sponsor a food drive, well publicized, for a month at your place of worship. Get a list of 4-5 needed products from your Food Bank/Pantry and ask for those in your publicity. Food stamps do not purchase personal items (sanitary items, shampoo, soap, cleaning products) so having a drive for those is also a good idea.
                                                  On a monthly basis we purchase meat/protein items - canned tuna,chicken, chili, stews, canned beans (especially when on sale) and take them. Small individual sizes work well for seniors that live alone.

                                                  1. I volunteer every Monday night putting together hampers at our local Food Bank. < www.calgaryfoodbank.com > I agree with those who said money is the best gift for a Food Bank - our Food Bank can distribute $4 worth of food for every $1 donated. The next best gift is time - volunteer to pick up/distribute/sort/pack food and it'll be an eye opening experience in many ways - it's one thing to hear about the need, it's another thing to see the lineups and the affect a smile and a simple act of kindness has on the recipient (and the giver). I volunteer because I can't imagine my own children going hungry. I've seen the lineups firsthand; a lot of the clients are families with young children, some are singles... couples - people of all stripes. Many of these people work a couple jobs and just can't make ends meet.

                                                    We put together hampers for 500-700 people each shift, sometimes we come in on Monday and the shelves where all the hampers are stored are empty. We're busier in the colder months when utility costs are higher...but there is a definite need 365 days a year. Hunger doesn't have a season. I do what I can for the volunteers I work with, together we move a couple tons of non-perishables. Over the past 18mo I've gotten to know a lot of the other regulars so I bake cookies/brownies and put them out for a treat after our shift.

                                                    1. I was just reminded of another thing my mother started doing last year... My grandmother lives in a very small, rural, poor community (~4000 ppl in the county, median household income is $25,000/year). They do not have a food bank, the churches are strapped for cash and can't help much, and the county is so far removed from an major metro area that it's easy to forget they exists. there is own grocery store in the county and 1-2 in each of the surrounding counties, but people living in the more remote areas are easily an hours drive from the store.

                                                      Now every time my mom or I go visit Grandmom we fill a few paper grocery bags w/ good pantry stocking food: pasta and sauce, peanut butter, jelly, a loaf of bread, rice, canned meat, condiments, canned veggies, flour, sugar, coffee... all the things we take for granted as affordable and easy to find, then ask my uncle, who is very involved in the community, to give the bags to the family that needs it the most at that time.

                                                      1. I'm very glad for this thread and it prompted me to write a check to my local Food Bank organization. I'd given food during various drives, but I hadn't given money in a couple of years (lest anyone think I'm selfish and miserly, I would like to add that I've increased my donations to a couple of other charities that are important to me). But I live in an economically depressed place (poverty rate ~20%), and I know that the local food banks are seeing an increase in the number of people using them. Knowing how important food is to me (and how much of a source of joy and pleasure it is as well), I did give. And I intend to donate cash more regularly, like I used to.

                                                        Thanks, Chowhounds, for reminding me how blessed I am to be able to share the wealth!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: nofunlatte

                                                          I have a donation automatically taken from each pay check and sent to the food bank. That way I don't forget, and they get money throughout the entire year.

                                                          And I always donate to the different food drives that come through the neighborhood: firefighters, boy scouts, high school, etc.

                                                          1. re: 512window

                                                            Good idea. And there's probably no reason that we couldn't do an automatic "bill pay" to an organization.

                                                        2. While I donate at home, I never had really thought about it while on vacation. We are renting a beach place and the info from the rental company suggests dropping off your unused pantry items at the end of your stay for the local food bank. What a great idea to let visitors know about that option!

                                                          I had planned a few grill focused dinners, but the mosquitoes are so bad that my menu changes will generate some donations!

                                                          1. Food banks are not keeping pace with growing demand as the sour economy forces more people to seek help.
                                                            Just a gentle reminder.
                                                            Happy Thanksgiving!

                                                            1. while donating food is obviously terrific, food pantries can often buy food at a huge discount (I know the one our church sponsors can), so cash may go farther-- just a thought to keep in mind.

                                                              1. My children go to Catholic School and every month they hold a "needy drive" where teh students are encouraged to bring in things like food, gently used coats, hats, mittens, warm clothing, blankets, etc. At the end of the drives if they meet the pre-set goal they are allowed a "free no uniform day" which to them is like gold. It teaches them how to be charitable, and makes it a fun thing, not a forced thing. (like taxes funding programs that I do not believe in... don't even get me started on that)

                                                                I have often told my children that if they have something they no longer need/want consider giving it to someone else and not throwing it away. If everyone gave just 1%, there would be so much less need in the world.

                                                                1. Instead of sending out Christmas Cards from my business I donate $1,000 per year to the local food bank.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: duck833

                                                                    Bravo duck833! Our local foodbank can distribute $4 worth of food for every $1 donated so if your foodbank is like ours your generous donation turns in to $4000.

                                                                    1. re: duck833

                                                                      excellent way to do it! Nice!

                                                                    2. My company does a charity match which comes out of my paycheck every month and they match the amount and send it right to the local food bank for me.

                                                                      I also put in a couple hours a month sorting and re-packaging at the main facility with my Soroptimist group.

                                                                      And I also used to translate and volunteer at a homeless shelter when I lived near enough to walk to it. That's where I learned to appreciate the appropriateness of food donations vs. old or odd stuff that's been sitting in one's cupboards for years.

                                                                      1. As an administrative nonprofit employee, I give money to my local food pantry. Food pantries can't operate if they can't pay their staff. Volunteers go a long way, but every food bank/pantry needs to pay its staff, buy copier toner, pay the electric bill, etc.

                                                                        1. i like to drop off canned goods and bags of rice. our local grocery stores get involved. postal workers, too.

                                                                          1. i generally go with cash/check donations rather than actual food for reasons others have mentioned. my favorite charities are not food banks per se, though; they're battered women's shelters that feed and house women and their children, since that is an issue area that is near and dear to my heart. i volunteer at one in particular, once a month (answering a hotline, providing certain specialized services, and sometimes helping organize fund raising events). every december, they receive a check from me, and also some amounts from my relatives and friends (whom i ask to give to this charity instead of buying me expensive presents i don't need).

                                                                            really great to hear about all the other economic-justice oriented chowhounds out there. keep up the good work!!

                                                                            if you really want to give food, i like this strategy: one of my friends throws a gigantic house party once a year (either at halloween or hanukkah) and the "price" of admission is a canned or boxed item. we end up lugging a fairly substantial amount of food to the pantry, after.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                              Cimui, I am impressed by your volunteer work! As I am also impressed by all the other posts, and the good work that gets done out there. It is very encouraging to read this thread.

                                                                              Women's shelters are also an important issue for me, and so I give a yearly donation of cash to a very wonderful organization in our city. We also support a local organization working with street kids, and a local community center that helps anyone who needs it. I prefer to give cash donations, as I figure each group knows best what they need, and it gives them the most flexibility. Anyhow, my main talent is being a cash cow, so might as well do what I best do... Most of my favorite groups do more than just a food bank, but often that is part of their mandate too.

                                                                              Am waiting for the CEO of GM to show up at the food bank, but not holding my breath. Although I am certainly feeling the effects of the recession, I still consider myself very lucky to have the life I have. I know I will be just fine, but I fear many others will not be so lucky. Thanks for the reminder to remember compassion.

                                                                              1. re: moh

                                                                                When we moved last time we took boxes and boxes of stuff to the women's abuse shelter because even if the cant use something they have sales throughout the year to make extra money.

                                                                            2. I went to the website of my local food bank a few years ago and set up an automatic monthly deduction from my checking account. Same with several other charities, including ones that feed the poor. I can't give much, but I figure every little bit helps.

                                                                              1. We give copious amounts of food to our local food bank. They do a great job serving families in need. We are grateful that we are not in need, realize that it's "there by the grace of God go I," and donate accordingly. I assume that all Chowhounds who are comfortably situated do the same.

                                                                                1. NBC had a great story yesterday on a non-profit group called Village Harvest that
                                                                                  organize and coordinate backyard fruit harvesting for local food banks.
                                                                                  What a great idea!

                                                                                  www.villageharvest.org

                                                                                  1. My local food bank had a special donation drive the other day where an anonymous donor matched whatever one donated. I made a donation and convinced a couple of friends at work to do the same.

                                                                                    1. In high school, I volunteered with a local food bank/food pantry. Along with friends I delievered the groceries to families in need. I noticed that the kids in one family would always run to dissect the package as quickly as possible. I inquired with the mother, and she said they're looking for apples and cookies- two things they don't usually get in the packages. From then on, I used my own money to buy a bag of apples and a few boxes of cookies to put in the bag. I never told them that the treats came from me..

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                        We have a program in our schools that sends book bags filled with food home with kids from needy families on Fridays so they will have food on weekends when they don't get free lunch. The food bank works through schools to reduce transportation costs, and they use book bags to reduce the stigma of sending home a box of food. From what I understand of the program the the food bank tries to pack some kind to treat (raisins, gummy bears, cookies) and the kids almost always eat those on the way home from school.

                                                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                                                          Wow, that's so awesome. I wrote a paper last year about food insecurity in elementary age kids.. it's scary to see how little nutrition these kids get- especially on the weekends. My professor and I had a discussion about how many food insecure kids are overweight because they are eating unhealthy cafeteria food as their only meal each day. Breaks my heart.

                                                                                      2. My better half and I used to volunteer with Food Not Bombs, and I miss that. He'd typically use his car to drive around and pick up donations at various grocery stores. I prefer to cook!

                                                                                        Nowadays, we give to our local food bank, The Greater Chicago Food Depository.

                                                                                        Each year around Thanksgiving time, we both receive gift cards for $50 apiece from our respective employers. We take those to Whole Foods and purchase canned beans, rice and pasta, fruit juice, quick oats, peanut butter, etc, and drop them off at the Food Depository for distribution to needy families and to shelters/ charitable organizations.

                                                                                        Personally, I love the idea of being able to donate food, gift cards and gift items to the same needy family. I'll look out for similar programs here!

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: opehlia payne

                                                                                          What a great topic and wonderful posts! I donate money throughout the year to the Daily Bread Food Bank here in Miami. Every Thanksgiving I have a food drive in the office building where I work and collect money, as well. While the Food Bank appreciates all donations, they can do a lot more with money than food. They have considerable buying power and get a lot more bang for the buck than we do. I know that for $10 they can feed several families. I think the number was ten, but that almost seems impossible. Why not, instead of buying groceries with your gift cards and money, just give them to the food banks and let them get even more. I think it's wonderful that so many of us "foodies" are thinking about those less fortunate and taking action to help. Let's keep up the good work!!!

                                                                                        2. What happiness you all have given me with your responses to this thread..
                                                                                          Thank you!
                                                                                          Beach Chick

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                            Merry Christmas everyone...
                                                                                            Had 2 gift certificates for $25 to Albertson's and I went to the local VFW to find a Marine who just got home from Iraq and he and his family are struggling and he gave me the biggest hug on Xmas Eve and said that the gift certificates will get his family through till the first of the year..
                                                                                            I started crying telling him how proud we are of his service to our country..
                                                                                            That was the best present to me..EVER!

                                                                                          2. I put a xmas twist on the food bank issue this year at work. I "sold" tickets on one of my cakes that I typically sell, but instead of people having to buy tickets with money, one non-perishable food would get a ticket on the cake. It's a somewhat small office, but by the end, I had three large boxes of food, picked up by the food bank. People got pretty excited by this kind of food drive. The power of chocolate !!!

                                                                                            1. Before celebrating Christmas yesterday, I took a lot of food supplies to a local food bank and shelter. IMO, it's what's Christmas and giving is all about.

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: cstr

                                                                                                I won a queen sized bed quilt at a quilt show earlier this year and rather than place it on my wall (where it would have looked amazing) I sold raffle tickets at a $100.00 a clip in the lobby of my office complex and raised $4,200.00 for the food bank. The winner of the quilt told me she was going to re-raffle the quilt at her husband's office complex and try to raise more money with it. At this rate....the quilt may wind up being worth more on the "raffle circuit" than on anyone's wall...but we're hoping to help as many families enjoy warm, comforting meals as possible in our large community.

                                                                                                Happy New Year Chowhounds!

                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                  maybe that quilt will make its way around the world endlessly being raffled !

                                                                                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                                    I hope it raises a ton of $$$ for foodbanks!

                                                                                                  2. re: HillJ

                                                                                                    Wow HillJ...you frigging rock!

                                                                                                2. A few times each year, I drop off some items at the local food bank. A few years ago, when it was possible to "earn" more than one Thanksgiving turkey at my Shop-Rite market, I gave the extra one to the food bank. Several years ago, when I was working on a new degree for my second career, I organized a food drive at the college and delivered two car loads of food to the county/regional food bank.

                                                                                                  Food banks are one of the best ways of doing something charitable in your local community. And, now that times are especially hard for a large number of people the need is even more pronounced. I urge everyone to go through your non-perishables and find several items to donate for the benefit of those who are hungry.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                                                                                                    This is my most Important Donation--everyone needs food, and it is something we place great emphasis on. If I can help bring comfort to someone else through food I am pleased.
                                                                                                    I give a donation, each month, to our local food bank through an automatic check service. I am aware of the donation, make steps to trim our outlay for our own food a bit because of it, and it's a win/win. We eat out less frequently, eat less meat etc. Nothing we miss. Just better planning. And we are grateful to be able to give - thankful to not need the gift at this time. I hope others will consider doing the same. The automatic check is helpful.

                                                                                                  2. Yes,we have a steady routine of donation.Now I use a credit card ,give an extra 10% to cover any fees.Most credit card companies will waive the fees for charity donation,so I help those that don't know how get started.
                                                                                                    The credit card thing is for miles.Our business billing is also for miles.Our miles exceed our needs by 50% every year.So we promptly donate the extra to childrens hospital funds
                                                                                                    Maybe both parents can now make the trip with a sick child for care or make a wish.
                                                                                                    My BIL makes food rounds from grocery store to nursing home to womens shelter and so on with perishables and fresh that the grocery stores have (dated) to donate.3 DAYS a week starting at 05:00.ice cream,soft fruit ,variety breads and other goodies

                                                                                                    1. Every week when you go food shopping pick up a gift card for the local supermarket. Drop it off at a local food shelter or church. This works really well and the family in need can go shopping and pick out what their family likes.

                                                                                                      1. I volunteer and also donate 1x per month. Usually just cans or boxes. I buy a few extra at the store and donate them.

                                                                                                        1. I just found this thread and haven't read through every post, so I don't know whether I'm going to express a popular or unpopular view.

                                                                                                          I'll say it up front: I find the very idea of food banks disgusting. Our society - even in these recessionary times - has an OBLIGATION to ensure that people don't go hungry. I'm happy to pay taxes for this purpose, as opposed to paying taxes for useless political pork.

                                                                                                          I came to this conclusion slowly over time. I volunteered at our local food bank in its earliest days. I sorted and packed groceries, worked over holidays, and felt wonderful about what I was doing. That was then.

                                                                                                          The food bank at the time used an abandoned supermarket, donated by a grocery chain, as its facility. The guy who started it assumed it would be short lived, eventually rendered unnecessary. Frankly, so did I.

                                                                                                          Instead, decades later, it is a multi-million dollar organization with vast warehousing and a fleet of trucks. It represents, possibly, the least efficient way to get food to those who need it. Many people who use it find it an embarrassing, humiliating experience. We shouldn't need to do this!

                                                                                                          Think about it. A can of tuna or jar of peanut butter moves through an entire supply chain to a supermarket. You buy it for the retail price. People pick up bags of groceries from stores, schools, and other organizations and take them to a fire station.

                                                                                                          Food bank staff and volunteers collect it from there and transport it to a warehouse. Then it is resorted, repacked, and delivered to local food banks through still another supply chain. Isn't that ridiculous?

                                                                                                          Of course, cash donations make much more sense. Problem is, people feel good about donating food. Cash reduces the "do good" impact that motivates many to give - so much so that it took years for our local organization to say it up front. Still, most people I know, and especially those with kids, remain gung ho on food donations.

                                                                                                          Today our food bank says "with every dollar you donate, Daily Bread can purchase more food than you can in a grocery store because we buy in bulk from our friends in the food industry. Food gets to those who need it faster because it doesn’t have to be sorted and we can focus on purchasing food that we are in short supply of."

                                                                                                          That makes more sense, but it still doesn't make it right. Our society should ensure collectively that everyone has enough to eat.

                                                                                                          End of rant...

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: embee

                                                                                                            embee, I appreciate your thoughtful post.

                                                                                                            I also believe that food banks, soup kitchens and pantries are in a better position to serve a larger number of families because their mission to serve is full time and on a much larger scale. Food banks work 40+ hours a week to help families in need. Food collections by corporations, grocery stores, houses of workship, Scouts, and individuals are not collecting or distributing food to families full time. We all can make a food contribution but a food distribution program like a large food bank impacts more people and reaches a wider area of need.

                                                                                                            Is the system perfect, nah. But, I put my faith in food banks.

                                                                                                            1. re: embee

                                                                                                              I would agree with you - except for the fact that our elected officials have proved over and over and over again that they CAN'T be trusted with large pots of money. Every time the government starts another "program" the criminals are already hard at work figuring out how to syphon off that taxpayer money and deposit it into their own pockets. And all too often the criminals and the politicians are one and the same. And IMO, things are not getting better in this respect - only worse. Under these circumstances, food banks and the like are much better equipped to get the help where it needs to be, instead of just helping to make yet another elected official richer than they already are.

                                                                                                              1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                Flourgirl, sadly food distribution centers can suffer the same assumptions. Namely, that cash donations are not used to buy food. A few bad apples, spoil the whole food supply chain. With charity, trust is always under scrutiny.

                                                                                                                Elected officials sit on Boards of non profits, including food distribution programs. Politics and funding will cross paths but in addition to state/county funding that trickles down to a localized food distribution center monies will also arrive from private foundations, corporations and individuals. Charity is a team effort.

                                                                                                                There is plenty of finger pointing inside and outside the programs of food distribution but I still bet my dinner that a food bank with 7 trucks, a team of volunteers and a minimal staff will feed a greater number of families next week than I can collecting bags of food from families and friends.

                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                  "With charity, trust is always under scrutiny."

                                                                                                                  You're absolutely right. Which is why we donate cash to very few charities. I'll be damned if I'm going to give away our very hard-earned money to a charity knowing that most of it is going into the pockets of the fund raisers and/or the ridiculiously obscene salaries of the top tier executives. As far as the big picture is concerned, of trying to help those who are truly less fortunate and struggling to survive, I really don't know what the best answer is.

                                                                                                                  I have a reasonable amount of faith in our local food bank. But maybe that faith is misplaced? I need to look into this further...

                                                                                                                  As an additional point, one of my immediate neighbors is very involved with our local food bank, and she has told me that the food bank has suffered in the last few years because our area has recently experienced a huge influx of illegal immigrants, a lot of people are feeling very resentful about that fact (for many many reasons) and they feel that programs like the food bank are just helping make it easier for the illegals to stay here, so they have drastically cut back on their donations. Couple that with the fact that there are more people than ever who are finding themselves in need of help from the food bank and you have the makings of a real disaster.

                                                                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                    flourgirl since the charities you speak of are public charities, looking into their public reporting is easy enough but will provide a limited point of view. If you contribute to a specific food bank, you have the right to ask for a donors report to be very clear how your monies are allocated.

                                                                                                                    Generally speaking high salaries in every profession receive the lion's share of the spotlight but again this is easy enough to verify. I think you would be surprised to learn that the average salary of an ED is quite low. Board members are volunteers.

                                                                                                                    As for the press given to who is receiving food supplies/donations, documentation is required at all food banks. Food banks do the best job, and certainly a better job than the public can, in making sure donations are appropriate.

                                                                                                                    Charities are taking a hard hit right now. Not all funding for food banks has arrived as promised and private donations are down. Being an informed donor is your right but believing, sharing or repeating misinformation can do a great deal of harm. I also share your belief that information is crucial. I wish you luck in sourcing information that will alleviate your concerns.

                                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                      Who is sharing or repeating misinformation? Is it misinformation that donations often aren't used the way the donors were led to believe they would be? It happens all the time. And I never said one single word about who was receiving help from food banks. And if you had bothered to read what I wrote you would have already known that. I said that the potential donors in our area are not donating as much as they have because of perceptions regarding who the donations are going to - and that as a result the food bank is struggling. If anything YOU are the one who made me wonder more about where the money was going if I made a donation to our local food bank. So if anyone is causing harm here, I'd say it's you.

                                                                                                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                        flourgirl, too bad my post was not rec'd in the spirit of discussion. I didn't post an accusation. That was not my intent. At all. I didn't say you were misinformed, I said misinformation happens. What you wrote didn't bother me. It's unfortunate you misunderstood my pov. I did say I agreed with your concerns. Did you see that line in my last post?

                                                                                                                        I'll attribute our discourse too a poor forum for such important discussions. But flourgirl, I meant no harm and I'm going to assume your use of the YOU in your reply was harmless as well.

                                                                                                                        Let's try being charitable to one another. Thanks.

                                                                                                            2. I am a HUGE believer in live/buy and act Locally! I buy local products; support local food stands/vendors who make/grow produce locally. Hey that sometimes (alot) that makes me a green and organic sort. Once I start to see expensive packaging, marketing I start to doubt thge 'local".

                                                                                                              And this holds true for my charity. I give to local foodbanks. As in I know it goes local , cause I drop off the bags of grocceries and see them being placed on the shelves. I donate food cards to local places. I drop off fresh items to the church run, *soup kitchen".

                                                                                                              To not donate, give back, pay it forward, help out whatever you want to call it, because you think can't see where it is going is just plain wrong. And lazy.

                                                                                                              If you can find local for yourself to buy, you can find local to donate.

                                                                                                              1. In addition to giving food and money I have found another way to help. I've taught nutrition/cooking classes for interested food bank recipients. It is amazing how many people do not know the first thing about food prep or how to assess the nutritional value of food products. It's an eye-opener for most when they learn it is possible to construct a nutritionally sound meal that isn't centered around meat; that the same money that buys a Big Gulp can be used instead to buy a pound of rice & beans. Eggs have gotten a very bad rap vis a vis cholesterol content, but they remain a nutrition-dense, low cost food choice. Ounce for ounce, they're a great protein source for little money.

                                                                                                                When a lot of the food bank donations are canned chili or hamburger helper-type foods, there's not a lot of education happening. But when the food bank becomes interested and buys wholesale lots of grains, legumes and fresh produce the possibilities expand exponentially.

                                                                                                                I've written an easy to understand handout that accompanies the food bags with nutrition information and preparation suggestions. A lot of our recipients never think beyond the next meal so planning ahead is another new concept. But when utilized, they always remark that it is easier to feed the family now that some things are already prepared and ready to be used again. I was saddened (and stunned!) to learn that no one had ever thought to make fried rice from leftover rice from a previous meal. To a person, they told me they thought you had to order that from a Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                                                For more than ten years, the United Food Bank in Mesa, AZ has had a program rewarding elementary school children for perfect attendance - they take home a bag of food for the weekend (when they would be going without a school-provided lunch). It's a win-win for everyone.

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                  Sherri, give a person a fish, they eat for the day. Teach a person to fish, they eat for a lifetime. What a great way to give! Thanks for sharing, it made my morning. Keep up the solid work.

                                                                                                                  1. re: moh

                                                                                                                    Moh, you made my morning! Thank you. I'm going to title my handout with that old Chinese proverb. It says, better than I can, what we're trying to do with the education program. Sometimes, when things are going well in a class, the recipients begin to feed off one another with ideas and suggestions. Everyone learns, including the instructor and it's almost magic to experience.

                                                                                                                    Overcoming the promises of advertizing campaigns is my toughest job (after rectifying culinary ignorance). When promises of family harmony are blitzed by Olive Garden adsand perfect bodies by Special K cereal, many of the downtrodden just throw up their hands in defeat.

                                                                                                                    Giving them the tools to take charge, "Teaching the person to fish ....." is EXACTLY what we're trying to accomplish. Time for a new handout ....... The MOH Special! Thanks for the nudge, it's perfect.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Sherri

                                                                                                                      Education is such a powerful tool. That is why when totalitarian governments take over, the first thing they do is shut down the schools, torment the teachers, take over the system. I wish you the best of luck. It is very important work you are doing!

                                                                                                                2. Sherri, moh, HillJ and all the other wonderful souls on this board that have contributed to this post is so inspiring...thank you!

                                                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                                    thanks Beach Chick, your words are appreciate and this thread provided a lot of inspiration for me as well. Quick update: the winner of the raffle quilt was true to her word and re-raffled the same beautiful quilt at her complex at $50.00 a ticket and sold $5,000.00 worth for the foodbank. Neither of us are sure the "new" winner took the same spirit but the story was shared and we hope the quilt owner elected to pay it forward. If not, there's always next year, a new quilt show, a new opportunity to try.

                                                                                                                    Be well BC!

                                                                                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                      Wow..love that story HillJ!
                                                                                                                      Is there any way to alert the media of this fab story?
                                                                                                                      So inspirational that could motivate others..
                                                                                                                      Best to you!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                                        The foodbank did a nice write-up in their agency newsletter. I hope the good work of many continues to bring support their way.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Beach Chick

                                                                                                                      Lucky and unlucky here in DC.In the face of real need we have many NON-GOVERNMENT options,small outreach,church and shelter etc.Sadly the need has grown so much in the recent months.My Thursday night wine class is now involved with local needs.We have added "pot luck" pricing and auction of "table top" to the price of the class.All were very willing,pleased to say.It's only about $350.00 a week divided 3 ways,all of which stays very close.We are working out ways to "raffle/auction" even more.
                                                                                                                      I have gleaned many nice additions from the thread you started THANK YOU ALL
                                                                                                                      I don't think anyone will do a quilt,but it lit the idea for Christmas tree skirts,Easter Baskets and various individual "shares" auction a weekend on a boat etc.

                                                                                                                      1. re: lcool

                                                                                                                        lcool, if a quilt raffle interests you try approaching a local quilt guild or sewing association for a quilt donation. However, all of the auction/raffle ideas you highlighted sound wonderful to me. I think having a nice, attractive "prize" is what matters in supporting your local charity of choice. Good luck to you.

                                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                          thank you HillJ,I think leaning on the skills a group of us have is ample.Also think the special quilt makers get leaned on a lot,as do the doll house and gingerbreard house folks.We have some huge $$$ ones role through the charity circut here every year.

                                                                                                                    3. I was forced to retire after injuring my back a number of years ago. When Workers Comp and SDI ran out (before SSDI kicked in) times got really lean, the wife and I had to lean on the food banks for a while there.

                                                                                                                      These days, we donate what we can.

                                                                                                                      1. We give as a family and work at the local food bank at least once a year. Currently, I am curating a show with a food theme at a cooperative gallery of which I am a member. During the ten week run, we are hosting a canned food drive for the local food bank and are awarding raffle tickets to donors.

                                                                                                                        1. Yes we do. Both $ and canned & non-perishable items.