One year, for the annual US Postal Service Food Drive, my husband volunteered to pick up a donation at the grocery store. He was gone a while, and when he came back he said, “I got stuck.” I knew what he was talking about: being at a store, indecisive, caught between options, standing in the aisle for too long, ready to give up.
“I bought this,” he said dispiritedly, holding up a bag.
He opened the bag and took out the biggest jar of peanut butter I have ever seen. It wasn’t even a jar. It was a tub, a vat, a cistern. I took one look and dissolved into such hard laughter I thought would hurt myself. From then on, “big jar of peanut butter” became code for ending up buying something ridiculous.
I return to this story today not just for a chuckle in memory (I can still see us both, flailing with hilarity in our kitchen, brought to tears by the idiocy of a jar of peanut butter so large it could choke a family of six or provide the foundation for a large mud house). The real point of the story is to ask, “Why did we donate a food we would not eat?” This was cheap peanut butter, full of trans fats and sugar. For ourselves we would buy organic, natural peanut butter, made from real peanuts and only real peanuts. But for the food drive—for poor people—we bought junk.
I am fairly certain we are not the only people to have done this. How many people clean out a cupboard for a food drive, welcoming the chance to get rid of unpopular or unpalatable (or outdated) food items?
Good quality food is high on our list of priorities (you know I love my vegetables!). We search out fresh produce, certified humane meat, interesting whole grains. Our canned goods are the best quality we can find, and we read labels assiduously to find products with the fewest additives. We depend on this food for our well being as well as our pleasure.
What would we do if faced with an emergency? How would we cope if a food bank were suddenly our only option to stave off hunger? Would we want to face that big jar of peanut butter? Would we be happy with the foods others had selected for us? Food banks offer some fresh produce, but their stock is primarily nonperishable foods—like beans, rice, and canned vegetables and fruit (and peanut butter). What could we expect to find there?
This blog is my chance to reflect, but I’m not stopping here. I’m starting a project to promote donation of good-quality food to food banks. I’ve already visited a local food bank run by Hopelink, and I’ll be visiting others in my region. You’ll read about these visits in future blogs.
From now on, I plan to give what I eat and to encourage others to do the same. Just because people are in need doesn’t mean they should have to eat poorly.
Questions for Reflection: How have you participated in food drives, and what have you typically donated? What would you hope to find if you needed to get food from a food bank? What do you think of the idea to “give what you eat”?
Writing prompts: “My experience with food banks has been ______” (then keep writing); “I am very dependent on foods that ______” (then keep writing); “When it comes to donating food in a food drive, I ______” (then keep writing).