Saturday we went to work at the Food Bank with my husband’s Masonic Lodge. We were in the warehouse sorting food into categories to be distributed to local distribution  points.  I saw some things which started me thinking (A dangerous pastime I know).  Most of the donations I saw were canned beans. But every once in a while there would be something nice like canned potatoes, carrots, waterchestnuts and even a can of palm hearts.  The palm hearts and a few of the Trader Joe’s cans reminded me of some blogs I’ve read lately about “would you feed your kids what you donate to the food bank.”
The cans I saw from the ethnic section of the grocery store made me wonder if these were things from people’s shelves or were assumptions about the recipients made during a shopping trip.  Although Utah has a high Hispanic population, it’s white males I see when serving at the soup kitchen. In addition, a demographic study done by the University of Utah in 2012 shows that 52% of Utah food bank recipients identify as White, 26% identify as Hispanic and 22% identifying as other.  So if people are purchasing food for the food bank from the Hispanic section, it’s based on a false assumption.  I am hoping though that those items may have been donated from homes where they were being used.

In addition, there were some cans in the donation bins which came from a local church food pantry. I know because the church pantry has their own label. I know the church pantry donates to the state pantry but these were not the bulk donations from the church but single cans which tells me someone who is getting church assistance still donated.  That reminded me of the parable of the widow’s mite.  The widow gave a donation of a mite which is the smallest available coin at that time.  It was all she had.  The Lord Jesus praised her since as a percentage of income, she was giving more than the others.  The others were giving of their excess, she was giving of her all.  I like to think that the cans from Deseret Cannery were some child participating in a school food drive who offered to give up a meal to donate to someone else.

The study I mentioned before from the University of Utah said that many of those at the food bank qualify for food stamps and housing assistance but do not know how to apply.  12% of those collecting food during the survey period were not in what would be considered food distress.  It’s not that they didn’t need the food from the food bank but they answered the survey questions in such a way that they indicated they were not hungry and had other sources of food.  Considering the numbers that the food bank serves, 12% isn’t bad.  And it’s possible that just because they had a food source the previous week, they didn’t have one for the upcoming week.

The final thought I had was the pet food section.  It hadn’t occurred to me that the food bank needs pet food as well as human food. In talking with my daughter who works for a vet, just because people fall on hard times, doesn’t mean they part with their fur or scale children.  A short period without a job shouldn’t mean having to be separated from a trusted 4 legged ally.  And like the other family members, that child needs food too.  If you haven’t volunteered at a soup kitchen, welfare storehouse or food bank, I would encourage you to do so.  It’s an incredible experience helping others.  And it might change your next donation.