There is an alarming belief
that if you’re hungry, you’re grateful for anything, even stale or expired food. As long as it’s edible. Maybe, to an extent, that’s true, and certainly I’ve been shocked into reality when I’ve watched homeless men dig for food in trash bins. But our obligation to those in need goes beyond clearing out the pantry of all the old food we’ve finally figured out we’re never going to eat. We owe them dignity.
I was forced to go to food banks a few years ago, and it was appalling, some of the food I brought home. It literally made me ill to eat it. Now, some food banks buy most of the food themselves, and many accept donations of day-old bread and the like that are welcome. However, others rely on donations of canned goods and other food.
I got a jar of peanut butter once that was absolutely foul. It turns out the company had gone out of business many years before. Today, when I donate to food banks, peanut butter is on the top of my list, and I always buy a new jar of a name-brand product.
It is humbling going to a food bank.
It is humbling going to a food bank. You often wait forever, and sometimes have to sit through an interview where they assess your needs and ask you personal questions that seemingly have no connection to getting food. To end up with a bag of dusty cans and long-expired pancake mix is demeaning, heart-breaking. Yet you have to eat, so you end up with tasteless (at best) meals.
The food bank at my church, I’m proud to say, buys much of the food it gives out and supplements what it buys with food grown in a community garden. I’ve spent the last few weeks gathering tomatoes from a friend’s garden (with his blessing). Anyone with a tomato plant or two can tell you, they produce lots of fruit. Wonderful, juicy, fresh fruit that can be used in so many meals.
They also are known in the area as the food bank that treats the people who come to them in need with dignity and respect. (I must make note that my Episcopalian congregation is currently meeting in a Lutheran church, and it’s the Lutherans who started the food bank and should get credit for its success. The garden was my priest’s idea.)
The people who need help with putting a meal on their table sit next to you at work. They are the families a few doors down, their kids play with yours. Sometimes, it might even be you.
Give the food you would want to receive when you’re making a donation to a food bank. It’s as simple as that.
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