Food or Financial Donations- What does a Food Pantry need most?
(Originally posted in 2014; now updated with current information)
With so many different messages on what a Food Pantry needs most, it might be helpful to take a step back and explain some basic MOM food pantry operations. Staffed almost 100% by dedicated volunteers, people are working in the Food Pantry nearly every day of the week, during open hours as well as off. Trucks are unloaded, donations are sorted, and inventory is kept. Orders are made to non-profit food providers such as Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Action Coalition, whose trucks come to the Food Pantry daily. Our partners deliver fresh produce that has been rescued from stores or gleaned from area farms or farmer markets, as well as pallets of essential items such as whole grains, cereal, and canned meat.
Donations are accepted. Volunteers clean, maintain records, enter data, and provide personal attention by helping Food Pantry guest throughout the Distribution Center. Food is weighed before it goes out the door and to the home of someone who struggles with hunger. Food Rescue volunteers travel 6 days a week to area businesses who generously donate both fresh and nearly expired food that is still good food, but may be excess that they want to keep from our landfills.
These regular operations are the heart of MOM’s food programs, but several additional programs offer more help and opportunities. During the summer, volunteerscoordinate and operate the Food Pantry Gardens which not only provides the freshest of produce for the Pantry shelves, but also teach volunteers and clients alike how to grow and care for a variety of fresh produce like tomatoes, squash, peppers and peas. Year round, Mobile Food Pantries bring food to two apartment complexes in the area, where people who for one reason or another are unable to reach the MOM campus. The MOM truck, filled with food, is a beacon of hope to those who otherwise lack options for staying food secure. Volunteers fill the truck three times a month and create a mini-food pantry on location, bringing companionship to residents.
So what kinds of donations to MOM most help meet the need? Should you donate food or make a financial donation? What actually helps the most?
The answer is that both of those types of help are needed equally, and we couldn't operate the pantry most efficiently without one or the other.
You may have heard from other area organizations that you can buy more with a financial donation than an individual can purchase directly from a store. It is true –MOM is supported by regionalized Food Banks (which aren't food pantries themselves, but instead food distribution non-profits). Food Banks are tremendous resources to area Food Pantries, providing large quantities of food that wouldn't often come as donations, such as pallets of all types of fresh, frozen, and canned produce, dairy, and critical proteins. Financial donations are needed to pay for Food Bank shared maintenance fees and other bulk deals, and a dollar goes a very long way. Money is also needed byMOM to help pay a variety of operating cost including maintaining buildings and equipment that are required to run a food pantry along with minimal staff costs to oversee day to day operations.
Then why do we need people to run food drives and bring us food? Because food is most often rescued by Food Banks, selection may be limited at times, causing a need for donations to keep the shelves stocked year round, six days a week at MOM. Items that we want to keep on our shelves to allow for an adequate and healthful selection of food are not consistently available from Food Bank sources. Produce and dairy rescued and made available to MOM goes a long way, but nutritious staples such as nut butter, canned chicken, and basic pantry staples such as flour or salt and pepper are also needed by people who fight hunger. Individual donations and food from Drives offer shoppers an amazing variety of foods, so that people can choose items that support their family's lifestyle, wellness and so that our community's children will grow and thrive.
How can your food donations go the farthest? MOM publishes a top ten list on our website that is updated monthly. It takes into account what we know we can't purchase from the Food Bank or otherwise hasn't come in from recent donations, as well as considering what is most popular with shoppers. Buying items off this list is a great way to make a huge impact. We also encourage people to start a Food Buyers Club where people go in together to purchase the items that are most needed and can be purchased in bulk and then delivered to the Food Pantry.
So, does it really matter if you buy an extra jar of nut butter, canned meals, or cooking oil and drop it off at MOM or in a barrel at a local food drive? Absolutely! Every single can of vegetables or box of pasta that comes through the door at MOM feeds someone. With each can, each box, and each jar, someone in your community, especially our children and seniors, feels a little more hope.
One can make a difference! Whether it's through buying an extra can of food at the grocery store this week, dropping your change in a donation jar, or making a regular contribution to MOM's Circle of Hope, you will change someone's life.
Together we can make a difference in our community!
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