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Old 13th December 2016, 03:45 AM   #367219  /  #1
Enso
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Food Banks Don't Need Food; Food Banks Need Money

via Vancouver Sun
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It’s one of Canada’s most cherished holiday practices, and it may also be unwittingly robbing resources from some of Canada’s most important charities.

You’ve seen it at the office. You’ve seen it at the library. You’ve seen it at your kids’ Christmas recital. You’ve seen it championed by police, firefighters and municipal officials.

I’m talking, of course, about donating canned goods to holiday food drives.

Now don’t get me wrong. Donating to charity is a good thing, particularly during the holidays, when many charities budget for yuletide donations. But, the simple rules of economics are begging you: Give money to food banks, rather than food.

Canned goods have a particularly low rate of charitable return. They’re heavy, they’re awkward and they can be extremely difficult to fit into a family’s meal plan. Worst of all, the average consumer is buying those canned goods at four to five times the rock-bottom bulk price that can be obtained by the food bank itself.

That $1 you spent on tuna could have purchased $4 worth of tuna if put in the hands of a non-profit employee whose only job is to buy food as cheaply as possible. The savvy buyers at the Calgary Food Bank, for instance, promise they can stretch $1 into $5.

Probably the worst tragedy of the inefficient food drive is holiday events and theatre performances where organizers ask for canned food donations in lieu of selling tickets.

The better option, of course, is to keep selling tickets and donate the box office take to the food bank. By not doing this, these well-meaning organizers are effectively surrendering vast amounts of critically needed grocery money in exchange for heavy cardboard boxes filled with god knows what.

And then there’s the logistical nightmare when these boxes show up at the food bank’s loading dock.

Put yourself in the place of a food bank that has just accepted an anarchic 40-pound box of random food from an office fundraiser. It’s got pie filling, Kraft Dinner, beans, pumpkin and chick peas. All those food items need to be sorted, stored, inventoried and then shoehorned into the food bank’s distribution schedule.

It’s bad form to have low-income families eat nothing but creamed corn until the stocks run dry, so some items move faster than others.

Consider the herculean plight of the food bank warehouse manager, and it’s easy to imagine how a particularly unhelpful box of food could end up doing nothing but wasting a bunch of people’s time before it ends up shunted into a dumpster.

All this has been known for years, and yet the practice continues. There are a few reasons for this.

First, charities are extremely leery about telling people how to donate. Nothing alienates a good samaritan faster than watching them pull up in a cube van of donated food, only to suggest that “maybe next time they just cut a cheque.” When charities get picky, it’s human for would-be donors to think they don’t really need the help that bad.

Second, people don’t trust charities. Charities have particularly fragile brands, and it only takes one or two charitable scandals showing up in someone’s Facebook feed for them to start casting aspersions on our nation’s non-profits.

So, by donating a flat of condensed milk instead of $30, donors feel they are insulating themselves against any unseemly corruption.

This was something seen during the Fort McMurray fires. Many Albertans, leery of seeing monetary donations vanish down some kind of bureaucratic black hole, insisted instead on donating mountains of diapers and toiletries that got wasted.

And last, something that is probably the most uncomfortable fact about all this: It doesn’t feel as good to donate money. As much as we like to pretend that charitable giving is a selfless act, a lot of it is driven by the human need to feel special and magnanimous.

And as donations go, it’s much more satisfying to donate a minivan filled with Ragu than to send a $100 e-transfer.

Charities know this, and it’s another reason why they are so hesitant to pooh-pooh canned food drives, despite the extra logistical cost. Non-profits know that people get a buzz from loudly dropping $6 worth of cans into an office hamper, and they’re happy to channel that urge towards something good.

They also know it’s a tougher sell to convince schools and offices to merely pass the hat for the hungry, rather than big photo-worthy gestures like building towers of creamed corn.

So, if you feel your coworkers or students need something spherical and tactile in order to fire their benevolent instincts, then by all means hold a food drive, and remind people to stick to the always-needed staples like peanut butter and canned fish.

But if you’re a pragmatist just looking to vanquish as much poverty as possible with your disposable income, suck it up, key in your credit card number and enter the glorious world of anonymous, non-glamourous philanthropy.

That empty food hamper at your office needn’t be a mark of shame, but a badge of honour.
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Old 13th December 2016, 04:11 AM   #367226  /  #2
borealis
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Read my posts with the following stupid accent: Canada
OMG just don't donate creamed corn!

Seriously, lots of people who really care about food banks want to donate non-perishables because that's what they can afford to do. Tossing a toonie in as a donation feels stingy, but if that's all you can spare... But the grocery store often has 2 for 1 sales and the like, so you can feel okay about donating the second item, you aren't taking it out of your own family's mouths.

Also think about donating pet food. Poor families have cats and dogs too, and it's difficult sometimes to spare catfood money. I suspect I've donated more big bags of petfood than people food and the food banks always pounce on it with cries of glee. They divvy it up in smaller bags so they can spread it around.
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Old 13th December 2016, 05:20 AM   #367254  /  #3
OmicronPersei8
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That $1 you spent on tuna could have purchased $4 worth of tuna if put in the hands of a non-profit employee whose only job is to buy food as cheaply as possible. The savvy buyers at the Calgary Food Bank, for instance, promise they can stretch $1 into $5.

For starters, yes you can turn $4 dollars of human tuna into $1 cat tuna and vice versa. And second, yes monetary donations are much easier to launder.
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Old 13th December 2016, 11:35 AM   #367267  /  #4
Carlsson
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Waiting for jiffy to say it
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Old 13th December 2016, 12:48 PM   #367287  /  #5
Imp
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Piles of canned food makes for better PR pictures.
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Old 13th December 2016, 05:17 PM   #367321  /  #6
Facetious
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I used to work in a centre that housed a foodbank and from conversations with the manager, everything in this article is true, it's true money is better but it's also true that people are more generous giving stuff. I can't remember exactly what he said but it's something like, if he stood at the entrance of a supermarket with a collecting tub he'd get maybe £100 over a day, if he stood with a trolley he'd get multiples of that amount in the value of goods.

Charities need to get clever, I know some use wishlists to make sure people are buying exactly what is needed. Would it be that difficult to work with supermarkets to set up something similar?

Quote:
This was something seen during the Fort McMurray fires. Many Albertans, leery of seeing monetary donations vanish down some kind of bureaucratic black hole, insisted instead on donating mountains of diapers and toiletries that got wasted.
This annoys me though. There is no reason for nappies and toiletries to get wasted. These items will always be needed, maybe they had too much at the time but they could donate to homeless shelters, women's refuges etc.
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Old 13th December 2016, 05:28 PM   #367322  /  #7
borealis
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It's true money is easier to use, but I like facetious' wish lists idea. Some food banks here do exactly that, they announce that there are specific items needed and that did work for the food bank in the same building I worked in for years.
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Old 14th December 2016, 06:27 AM   #367442  /  #8
Enso
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OmicronPersei8 View Post
That $1 you spent on tuna could have purchased $4 worth of tuna if put in the hands of a non-profit employee whose only job is to buy food as cheaply as possible. The savvy buyers at the Calgary Food Bank, for instance, promise they can stretch $1 into $5.

For starters, yes you can turn $4 dollars of human tuna into $1 cat tuna and vice versa. And second, yes monetary donations are much easier to launder.
I know, right?
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