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Dec212009

Should you donate Kraft Dinner to the food bank? 

There was a twitter party tonight where Kraft was promising to donate 50 boxes of Kraft Dinner (KD) for every tweet with the #bluebox hash tag. The goal was to reach one million boxes of KD being donated. Kraft's donation drive, in conjunction with Feeding America, uses the slogan "Share a Little Comfort." The thing is...Kraft Dinner is not comfort food for people who cannot afford to eat well.

According to a 2008 University of Calgary study called Discomforting comfort foods: stirring the pot on Kraft Dinner® and social inequality in Canada by Melanie Rock, Lynn McIntyre, and Krista Rondeau, "food-secure Canadians tend to associate Kraft Dinner® with comfort, while food-insecure Canadians tend to associate Kraft Dinner® with discomfort". The reason for this is that eating Kraft Dinner is a choice for food secure Canadians, i.e. those who can afford to buy food, and they can pair it with nutritious sides like proteins and vegetables to make a well rounded meal. For food insecure Canadians, i.e. those who cannot afford to buy food, Kraft Dinner is often what they have to eat at the end of the month when the money has run out and they cannot afford anything else. They often have to prepare it without milk, resulting in a significant loss of both taste and nutritional value. According to a CBC article on the study, food secure Canadians often think Kraft Dinner is an appropriate donation to a food bank because it is convenient, easy to prepare, and their kids like it.

Is there a better way to donate a dollar?


The average cost of a box of Kraft Dinner in Canada is $1. The total cost to prepare it is a bit more once you add in the required milk and butter or margerine. I typed "what can a food bank buy for $1" into Google and found a ton of results right away showing that a $1 cash donation can go much further to alleviating hunger than a box of Kraft Dinner, e.g.

It is ridiculous that in Canada there are farmers who can barely afford to feed their own families. Farmers who have to go to the food bank. While at the same time, Canada's poor cannot afford nutritious food and is being forced to eat donated Kraft Dinner while Kraft rakes in double digit profit margins. We need to to something to make nutritious food more affordable and more accessible and to allow farmers to earn a living.

I don't have the answer. I wish I did. But I know that part of it involves donating cash to the food bank instead of donating Kraft Dinner. Another part involves developing strategies that will allow food banks to distribute more fresh food, including things like the food bank booth at our local farmer's market where people could purchase extra produce and donate it (they aren't there every week, but I think they should be).

Image credit: I am Gretchen on flickr
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Reader Comments (52)

The entire food bank system is really a ridiculously inefficient way to feed people. Think about it: You go to the supermarket and buy groceries which you drop off at your local school/church/community centre. Those donations then get loaded onto a truck to be sorted and redistributed at a central destination and then driven back to the same neighbourhood to be given out to the poor who often travel significant distances to get to a food bank. Guess what is already in every neighbourhood? Supermarkets! Where they sell all sorts of fresh foods! Can we just skip the whole making-the-poor-line-up part and come up with ways to distribute supermarket gift cards to those in need?

That said, you're absolutely right, Annie. The only way to make Kraft dinner palatable/nutritious is to add *a lot* of other ingredients. When I make boxed mac and cheese for my kids for lunch (hey, fast and friendly) I always end up adding real cheese and lots of veggies, which probably triples the cost, at least.

I had no idea that foodbanks accepted cash donations. I will keep this in mind once our church does another collection, and suggest people donate a few dollars instead.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMZ

Actually, at least in the US, many neighborhoods DON'T have supermarkets. Many city neighborhoods have 7-11s at best, which do NOT carry produce or dried beans or whole grain breads or anything else remotely healthy...they're basically glorified gas stations. So, that's part of the reason gift cards aren't done. Also, people have this idea of the food insecure that they are that way because they waste their money on other things so they're more likely to donate tangible items like food, rather than money which can be spent any number of ways.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMZ

I knew that our local food back prefers dollars over food but I admit to donating actual food to food drives at my son's school. And I think there might have been some KD in the mix. I feel bad that I never stopped to consider what I was putting in the food donation box - I just figured food is food. Your article made me realize that I should take a bit more care when donating to the food bank in the future.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn

I guess when you can tweet and it costs you nothing and somebody gets fed, it is sort of a win-win. For years now, I've made it a point to feed the hungry by clicking daily at http://www.thehungersite.com" rel="nofollow">The Hunger Site and all they give is "staple food". I figure as long as it keeps someone alive, it's good.

You could take the discussion all the way to why there are poor people if you wanted to, but if I had to choose between going without food and a KD, I'm thinking KD is better, even without milk.

From Kraft's point of view, they can donate a lot more food than money, because their investment is in terms of cost, so it's less than $1 a package, plus they get something back from the publicity. In this sense, maybe KDs actually offer more food than money for fresh food would buy.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFamily Matters

I do donate to local food banks, and when shopping specifically for such items, I try to keep in mind a) nutrition and b) that I live in the most ethnically-diverse city in North America. So I try to find foods that a new Canadian might actually know how to prepare/prefer the taste of. I don't need to be responsible for getting a kid hooked on something like KD.

However, I do face a bit of a conundrum when it comes to donating other items, such as gifts I had received following the births of my children that I knew I would never use - Johnsons & Johnsons is not good enough for my kid, but it IS good enough for a baby whose parents don't have the money to buy something better? I don't want the item to end up in the garbage, and some parents don't really care about the things that I consider important in baby bath products, but still - there's a good amount of guilt that goes with my 'altruistic' intentions.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkgirl

I agree. I sometimes feel guilty with what I donate to food banks (it's usually stuff I got nearly for free with coupons, or was given to us) because our family doesn't eat it (processed foods like cake mixes, canned soup etc), but then if I were to donate what we actually ate (dried beans, eggs, meat) it would spoil or many people wouldn't know what to do with it. So it is what it is. I'm a big fan of giving a neighbor in need a meal though, which skips the middle man and provides friendship to boot.

Our closest grocery stores are 2 miles away, and we live in town. Two miles is a pretty far walk when it's winter in Montana, so I agree that food banks do serve a purpose.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCara @ Natural Family Crafts

for a few years, we've been a part of a CSA that produces food for its shareholders and the local food bank - though it just shut down the CSA arm of the operation :( but i thought it was a great model to get fresh local produce coming in to the food bank, and i was glad to support it by being a CSA member. we also give cash donations to local food banks, but then i feel guilty when people are doing a food drive and figure i should bring something or look odd. i admit i've pulled out boxes of mac and cheese from my stash for the drive - whole wheat, organic, etc., and then i wonder if the kids who are used to the fluorescent orange variety will even eat it. when i can, i try to get dried fruit, and some kind of canned protein - tuna, beans... and of course then worry about the BPA - can't win! at least mac & cheese comes in a cardboard box.

i went to a holiday concert a few nights ago which was free admission with food donations solicited - i handed over $5 and the person taking the food looked puzzled, and said "oh yeah, one other person brought cash, i'll put it with their donation and figure out what to do with it..." there were several hundred people in the concert, and i was one of the last people in - why didn't more people bring cash? because that's not what was requested? because people don't know that the food banks get more bang for the buck with cash gifts? because people went in without donating anything?? so last night i went to another event with food donations solicited, and i just didn't give anything. i've already donated hundreds to food banks this year - if the purpose of a food drive is to get people thinking about the food bank and doing something concrete, well, they've already got me in the bag.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRosemary

@Rosemary:

I was thinking of the CSA thing while getting ready for work this morning in light of the comments made by Rebecca above. I would love to see each CSA and its members work with the food bank to sponsor a few food insecure families or low-income housing co-ops. Each CSA member could add a small donation to their subscription fee that would equal enough over the course of the season to result in a tax receipt for the donation and would provide some in need families with fresh produce every week during the growing season.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

There is another issue with supermarket gift cards directly to the hungry: food banks/shelters are able to make the dollar go further. I think Annie mentions it above as well. The $100 gift card you give to someone is only worth $100, but the same money given to a shelter might be stretched into double or triple that.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

@Amanda: Yes - that is true for several reasons. It is true because the food bank can buy in bulk and then distribute smaller amounts to those in need. It is also true because the financial literacy of people who are food insecure (as well as those who are food secure) is not necessarily high enough to allow them to get the best nutritional bang for their buck at the supermarket. If you are food secure, that doesn't matter all that much. Maybe you spend a bit more on food than you should have because you didn't realize that those mangoes were way too expensive. But for the food insecure, it could mean that they only have half as much food in their cupboards as they could have had if it was easier for them to figure out whether it is better value to buy 200g of fresh blueberries or to get a bag of frozen strawberries.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I always have issues about donating food I wouldn't eat myself. Kraft, to me, feels like end of the month dinner. Usually with a can of tuna fish mixed in, but not much else. Our local food bank only takes canned and boxed foods, but recently Women Infants and Children started giving out vouchers for fresh fruits and veggies along with their staples.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

@Amanda: You're right, but there may be ways to get a better deal even with gift cards. Perhaps a chain of grocery stores would match donations or something like that. The cost in terms of man-power and transportation in the current system is also quite high, keep in mind.

@phdinparenting: I understand your points, but I think we are best focusing on nutrition education and making healthy, wholesome foods affordable and letting the poor people shop for themselves. There is an indignity in going to a food bank and having your food doled out to you.

And if there are entire urban neighbourhoods that are not served by a grocery store, so that most people rely on local food banks (if I understand an earlier objection properly) then that is a real problem in itself. If the residents were given gift cards, then, that might attract a supermarket to the area.

I was surprised to learn recently that a lot of food banks don't take baby food in glass jars. And there was a giant list of things to NOT donate (although you'd think people would know better than to donate something that was already opened and half eaten--ick!). In any case, if you feel strongly enough about something, I think it's best to make a dontaion directly to the cause, rather than buy something that might get the food bank 20 cents. IE, instead of buying the pink yogurt, give money directly to the Komen Foundation.

Our food bank said that peanut butter is one of the best things to donate, as a family can get multiple meals out of one jar. If something is so cheap (or with coupons, free) that I can't pass it up, but it's not a food I feed my family, I buy it anyway and donate it. Homelessness and poverty are a huge problem in my city, and Kraft dinner is better than NO dinner at all.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKayris

I've totally been guilty of donating something like a Kraft dinner b/c I think of it as easy - I've never really thought about someone not liking it b/c it's what they *have* to eat when money runs out. But now that you point it out, it makes perfect sense. I will definitely donate money from now on!

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDionna

@Kayris:

Really? They don't accept baby food in glass jars? Why not? I haven't heard of that here, but I may be misinformed.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Rebecca: I completely agree that those are important priorities.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Ya know, I had the same thought - "They often have to prepare it without milk, resulting in a significant loss of both taste and nutritional value" - recently while shopping for things to donate to the food bank. I didn't want to buy anything that required adding milk or butter because I figure a lot of people don't have milk or butter. Instead I bought cans of beans and tuna fish figuring that the protein from those would be more beneficial.

I think ppl's hearts are in the right place when they donate any food to the food banks, but many probably don't think all of their donations through and, if they are anything like me, they don't realize that if you donate $ instead of food, it will go a lot farther. Thanks for this post, Annie!

I didn't know money could go so far at food banks. Thanks for the information.

And it is true about Kraft Dinner. It is cheap so it is something poor families are likely to buy themselves if they have money to buy some food. Then they go to the food bank and there's more Kraft Dinner.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLyndsay

One of my twitter followers passed along this link to a Toronto-based organization called Healthy Food Bank: http://healthyfoodbank.com/" rel="nofollow">http://healthyfoodbank.com/

From their About Us page:

The Healthy Food Bank is a non-profit organization that raises money to buy nutritious staples, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, for people in need around North America.

We raise money via donations and subscriptions to our magazine, Spezzatino — the food magazine that really feeds people.

The money we raise is distributed to local food banks around the United States and Canada, with the stipulation that it be used to buy healthy, nutritious food.

All our administrative costs are covered by corporate sponsorships, so that 100% of the money donated by the public goes toward purchasing quality food for someone who can’t afford to eat today.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have a few theories about better food for the food banks but the ones here in America do not love my ideas. First if you are going to donate things like Kraft that require milk I say you need to include powdered milk - to keep people from making it without milk. Also, I think it would be better to donate rice and beans - canned ones if you are thinking that the people eating from the food bank may not have time to make them from scratch. They are high in protein and nutritional value plus they are cheap. And lastly I think the supplies (and a recipe) to make things that are cheap and easy - it will help more in the long run. But most people are so stuck in the pasta and tomato sauce or mac and cheese idea that they cannot think outside that box.

December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterUpstatemomof3

My husband and I have been giving cash to our food bank for a number of years now, becuase they can multiply the money many times over (between buying in bulk, and companies that will provide discounts to foodbanks or match contributions, etc). Also, that way the food bank can buy what people NEED. Cash is the most effective means of feeding people.

However, as a parent and an elementary school teacher I do believe there is great value in collecting non-perishable goods, especially as a project for children. In this way, kids can see directlt that what they have bought from the store or chosen from the cupboard at home will be given to someone who is hungry (quite likely a child just like them).

The other reason that food collection boxes at supermarkets is a useful project is that many people will buy a few extra cans or jars of something that is on sale and drop it immediately into the bin ... but many of those people would NOT drop a few dollars into a collection jar or take the time to write a check.

December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarianne

Absolutely! Cash is always better. But if not cash, then how about a bag of lentils? Canned tomatoes? Healthy soups? Peanut butter? Toilet paper? Seeing Kraft dinner or any other unhealthy non-perishable item in a food bank box makes me sick. I wonder how I would get by having to live off food bank donations? Not very well I think, since that stuff makes me want to vomit!

December 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

I've been donating money to Feeding America (formerly America's Second Harvest) for years. I believe they coordinate food banks around the US. Reminds me that I need to make my end of year donation.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThat Danielle

Thanks for the reminder to donate. I just donated to both Feeding America (feedingamerica.org) and the New Jersey COmmunity Food Bank and I upped my annual donation. I haven't had time to do my annual toy donation because of the new baby so this feels good .

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThat Danielle

Here in Los Angeles folks collect the fruit from their trees each month and bring them to the food pantry. If you don't want to do the picking, groups will do it for you.

It's really nice. Giving people junk food really isn't helpful.

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Gottlieb

This is a thought provoking post. I agree with you that people should be more thoughtful regarding what they donate to food banks and that money is best. (I donate both food and money on a consistent basis.) At the same time though, I think that something is better than nothing. If a company is willing to give food to a food bank for a tweet, then yes, I'll tweet about it if I'm aware of the campaign. Food banks are hurting for donations...especially recently. If I were extremely poor and given the choice to feed my child(ren) plain macaroni or nothing...I would choose the macaroni.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly/Mom in the City

I am really appalled at the snobbiness of you all! You are calling Kraft Foods basically crap. One person even said it is "end of the month food" meaning, I gather, the food when the money has run out.

So... none of you use Philidelphia Cream Cheese? Mayo? Salad Dressings? Digiorno Pizzas? Velveeta? Ritz Crackers? Cool Whip? Baker's Chocolate? What about all the cheeses? Or the Oscar Meyer meats? Taco Bell Home Originals? Stove Top Stuffing? Have you given a thought to the number of name brands that are actually Kraft? You are telling me that you ONLY use the afore-mentioned products when you don't have enough money for anything else? Geez, what are y'all eating?

Y'all are downing a company for helping people out! Yes, they get PR out of this, but it is costing them money besides... if people who are getting this stuff for FREE are complaining, what does that say about them?

I give to Food Banks and I hope like heck no one has ever complained about the stuff I have put in there....

Very Interesting post and comments... I am seriously shocked and dismayed!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelli

You just inspired me to google my own local food bank and find out what I can do to help which WONT include buying Kraft dinner. Thanks for opening my eyes a bit wider and for making me think.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRedneck Mommy

Kelli:

I know that Kraft makes a variety of foods. In this case though, they were talking about donating ONLY boxed of Kraft Dinner (i.e. the white macaroni noodles with flourescent orange cheese sauce, that you need to have milk and butter on hand to be able to make properly).

To answer your question "geez, what are y'all eating", I may have the occaisional Kraft (or other processed food) product in my fridge/cupboard, but mostly we eat whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. I do buy some salad dressings, but mostly I make my own balsamic vinaigrette.

The most important point here though was that the $1 it would cost you to buy and donate a box of Kraft Dinner could go 3 to 6 times further if you donated cash instead.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Very important issues. I entirely agree with education and care helping donors make good choices for their recipients. When I worked at a women's homeless shelter, one of the most awkward experiences for me would be to open our food pantry to her when there were only non-nutritional or off items to offer her. When the only protein was sardines in mustard sauce. That said, some of my best moments were seeing women's relief, and their creativity at making things work. When I purchase for food drives, I exclusively purchase what I know was desired: evap milk, decent canned meats, canned beans, low sugar canned fruits. Things almost never needed:corn or pumpkin. I do also hold out, as other commenters noted, that raising public awareness about hunger insecurity is a valid goal for a food drive, and that there are times when cash drives just don't work or don't cut it. And about corporate campaigns: some get it and do a good job. Others don't. Trading tweets for donations = yuck.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

I agree that trading tweets for donations = yuck.

Kraft could have just donated that food without the tweets if it wanted to do that. The only point of the tweet campaign would be:

(1) to create positive publicity for Kraft
(2) to add to food secure people's "feel good" comfort feelings about Kraft Dinner
(3) to make food secure people think of buying a few extra boxes of Kraft Dinner when they are buying it for themselves and tossing it into the Food Drive bin and then patting themselves on the back while padding Kraft's pockets

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have had to use the food bank on several occasions before, and although I am grateful, there are things about it that I hate...such as any veggies or fruit would spoil in a day, half of the dry food they gave was stale/expired, I got no name sidekick noodles that expired in 2006, and so on and so forth...its rather embarrassing to think people would donate expired/expiring food, but they do...and our food bank not only accepted it but handed it out.

I think there is a definite room for improvement in our food bank system!!!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastica

Interesting conversation... I always try to think about what would actually be the best foods to donate, but the fact is I don't know what it's like to get my essential food from a Food bank. I thankfully don't have that experience. I have probably bought things that were not helpful or were not the best choice.

I have volunteered at the food banks in a couple of different states and you would be surprised what people will donate. I was especially dismayed at all the expired foods people would send in. I wonder, does it make them feel better to donate something that is not usable and wastes the time of the volunteers to weed it all out? And how much is there a mentality of "it's not good enough for my family, but it's good enough for those poor people" with donations of food or personal care products?

Interestingly, around here, I feel like people think donating money is LESS helpful than donating food. Maybe there should be more information given during campaigns about how much further a dollar will go compared to something you have in your cupboard or pick up at the store. I know that I have felt guilty about "only bringing money" when I didn't have time to pick up actual food. Guess I need to start doing it more!

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrenna

I think a lot of expiring (but not yet expired) food does get donated by grocery stores with the thought that they probably won't sell it, but maybe someone could use it immediately. With regards to people donating long expired food and the food bank giving it out, I think that is too bad. I will admit that I sometimes donate things I don't like if I buy three packages of something, try one and don't like it, but figure someone else might like it. But I wouldn't donate expired food.

January 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'm not sure if this discussion is still active but I've really enjoyed hearing everyones input.

I just wanted to let you guys know of a few programs that we are blessed to have here in Toronto, that are working really well while dealing with food security issues in an unconventional way. Toronto has a growing number of people who depend on food banks and some neighbourhoods have even been deemed "food deserts", meaning there is no grocery stores or only high end grocery stores in the area.

One program that I'm personally a part of is community gardens around the city , especially on social housing property. This provides fresh and healthy foods for participants , as well as a recreational activity and an opportunity to learn about food systems and sustainability. Some gardens are communal and some have individual plots where people can grow whatever they like. Participants can also choose to keep some food and donate the rest. It's really great to see more and more gardens popping up all over the city!

Another program that I really think we should be trying to model in cities everywhere is the Good Food Box. I copied this from the website ...

What is the Good Food Box?

In January of 1994, we packed forty Good Food Boxes in the basement of our office. In 2003 we distributed 4,000 boxes per month through 200 neighborhood-based drop-offs.

We buy top quality fresh fruit and vegetables directly from farmers and from the Ontario Food Terminal, and volunteers pack it into green reusable boxes at our Field to Table warehouse.

Volunteer co-ordinators collect money for the boxes in advance of delivery, then make sure that everyone gets their box after it arrives. We deliver to daycares, apartment buildings, churches—anywhere there are 8–10 people who want to buy a box.

More info:
http://www.foodshare.net/goodfoodbox01.htm

Good healthy food is a right for everyone!

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVanja

[...] person hosting the party is generally paid a fee for doing so. So, the host benefits, the charity (theoretically) benefits, and the participants [...]

[...] meal options (french fries passing as vegetables, “Lunchables” passing as lunch, Kraft Dinner passing as a reasonable donation to food insecure families, toddler meals laden with sodium passing as specially made for toddlers, McDonald’s passing [...]

[...] great video on Ms. Mary Mack (Nicole)’s blog. Whenever I write about the problems with our food system, with advertising to kids, with formula companies, there are always a few people who think [...]

I doubt many people will read this comment, since this post is almost a year old, but none the less, I'd like to add my thoughts. I have a very different point of view than most of the other commenters, so I hope anyone who reads this finds it interesting!
I often use the food bank, and I never really gave too much thought about what I got from it. Now that I think of it, I do end up not eating and throwing out a large portion of the food. I've got boxes of no name mac n' cheese, turkey stuffing, lentils, and multiple bags of unidentified dried products sitting in my pantry that have been there for months. Last year, during my 'anual toss out', I threw out nine boxes of expired turkey stuffing, and over ten cans of expired mushroom soup!
Now, I'm not saying that I hate all of the food that comes from food banks...some of it is pretty good, actually, but I think that too much of it is junk that most people end up throwing out!
Often I get things like yogurt expired two or three days ago (that really grosses me out), bread that has one or two days before the expiration date, or gross no name products that have no nutritional value. If I don't eat it, it gets tossed out and then I feel bad because I am waisting all of this food that people migh have donated with good intentions.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I toss out half of the food just because I don't like it! The parishable food is usually very stale or moldy before I can finish it or work up the apetite to eat it!
I don't want to sound greedy or anything...but it would be so much nicer to have a bit more healthy, fresh food coming home from the food bank.
Thanks for your time. (:

November 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Thank you for asking this question! I have a lovely friend Elaine who volunteers her time at a community center's after school program for pre-teens. She is always on their case about providing donuts for these kids as a snack. "You want to build their self esteem?" she asks the director. "Then how about some decent food?"

It's a touchy situation. Of course those donuts are donated.

December 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulia's Child

I live in a neighborhood with no real supermarkets. You are so right. I have a small awful market about a mile and a half away. It is not even worth the walk (or two buses) because the place smells awful and all the food offered is junk. The produce is already near rotten and would have to be cooked immediately.

There is one grocery store several miles away (unfortunately not walkable especially toting a child and groceries. It is not great either and also requires a couple buses to get to. I would not dare go there at night either. One of the guards there wears a yellow vest that has scrawled in black marker "Don't shoot the man in the yellow vest." A lot of lower income families in my city live without groceries nearby.

I can say from experience it is awful not being able to walk to anything but a convenience store. I usually get my groceries on the bus and that is not always easy and never convenient but it is what we have to do.

I have never used a food bank though because I can afford groceries most months. But I could not imagine being in my situation and having to go to a food bank because they are difficult to get to without a car. They should be more convenient.

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Thanks for this thought-provoking post, Annie! Although it's a year old, it's still as relevant this December as it was last December.

I've been reflecting on this topic for the past few weeks...brainstorming ideas and wondering what the most sustainable approach is for ensuring that the poor receive nutritious foods, education, and resources.

December 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

"One person even said it is “end of the month food” meaning, I gather, the food when the money has run out."

Somebody making a statement that implies s/he is POOR (rich people don't run so far out of money that they can only eat mac 'n cheese) in a conversation about helping poor people, that makes them a snob?

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUly

Also...

"if people who are getting this stuff for FREE are complaining, what does that say about them?"

Perhaps it says that they would like it if you donated money to the food bank so that the food bank could spend your money more efficiently than you could (by taking advantage of bulk deals) to buy healthier food that they KNOW their recipients will appreciate. Perhaps it says that they are human beings, and have food preferences like everybody else. It's snobby to suggest that poor people are allowed to dislike food?

"I give to Food Banks and I hope like heck no one has ever complained about the stuff I have put in there…."

I know people who have taken what they got from the local pantry, walked around and donate it right back. They absolutely couldn't use it, and wouldn't eat it.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUly

"To answer your question “geez, what are y’all eating”, I may have the occaisional Kraft (or other processed food) product in my fridge/cupboard, but mostly we eat whole foods."

Ditto. I don't like artificial food coloring in my food, so I mostly subsist on foods from the produce aisle, dried beans, rice, meat, and eggs.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUly

I don't think the point is that the food bank users are complaining. The point is donating unhealthy food that most of us would not eat and that people often turn to when they have absolutely nothing left is not the best thing to donate. I could not even feed it to my kid because she cannot eat food dyes. I don't think poor people should have to feed their children food with potential poisons in them.

If you can afford to do so it is better to donated something healthier without additives.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Oh, and as a last comment - "Kraft Dinner" is Canada-speak for "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese". None of their other stuff... which, out of your list, I buy exactly... none of it.

We don't do dairy, it's cheaper to make your own mayo (surprisingly) and salad dressing, it would be cheaper to make pizza from scratch, crackers are nutritionally devoid (and if I were starving I wouldn't care, but since I'm not, I rather do), I try to buy fair-trade chocolate, I prefer to use leftover meats for sandwiches or else use peanut butter (store brand - fewer additives, oddly), I don't buy "home originals" as it's inevitably cheaper and healthier to make my own (no food coloring - that stuff is made from tar, ew), and if I want to stuff a bird I make my own with whatever I have that has to be used up.

I *prefer* to eat good, healthy food. I would have to be pretty poor indeed to make the choice to eat box food instead.

January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUly

I don't know whether they're complaining or not, and I agree with your point.

I think it's the height of arrogance, though, to be like the previous poster and ask, high-and-mighty, "what does it SAY about them if they COMPLAIN", as though poor people should just suck it up and accept what they get.

January 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterUly

As a person who often has little to no money left over at the end of the month, I can honestly say that my family eats a lot of Kraft Dinner (or the store brand equivalent). We can usually get it here for around thirty to fifty cents a box. And yes, it usually makes up our entire meal. Sometimes if we can afford it we cut up hotdogs and cook with it, or if we can't we add a can of beans to it. Not the most tasty or nutritious meal, but it is at least filling. Unfortunately I make "too much money" at $11,000 USD a year to qualify for food stamps or meal assistance where I live.
Other families I know who do receive food assistance often get boxes of donated food, or local churches will charge a small amount for a large box of food to low-income families. Kraft dinner is always there, while healthier things like fruits and veg or meats are often absent.

For those of you who can afford to donate, thank you for donating anything at all. It really helps, but remember we like to feed our families healthy foods too.

February 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary

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