A few years ago I volunteered at my local food pantry. Twice a week I would help load the shelves with food packed in the storage room. The pantry room is like a mini-grocery store. Volunteers would take clients throughout the room, telling them what they could choose. People could only receive enough food for three days, and could only return once a month, which depends on the number of family members. People will receive additional food items during major holidays throughout the year such as Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.
It is great that people receive nutritional help from the food panty; however, it is not enough. The pantries ask for mostly non-perishable food items, especially canned or boxed items. They also appreciate donations of baby food and formula, toiletry items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and toilet paper), lunch snacks, canned soups, stews and chili, juices boxes and peanut butter.
Clients would also receive cheese, a bag of milk and some bread if any were available. Where are the fruits and vegetables? On occasion someone would bring some in, where a few people would benefit, but what about everyone else?
I imagine a world where everyone has access to fresh and organic fruit and vegetables, and may also benefit from other real food on a regular basis such as nuts, seeds and whole grains. I also imagine a world where everyone has access to information on the best possible ways to nourish your body. Not everyone understands the detrimental effects of consuming the wrong foods. It is important that everyone eats, absolutely, but does it matter what is eaten?
So what is the solution? Could organic food or produce food banks ever complement or replace the non-perishable food banks within communities in need. I have a couple of ideas of how this transition could be possible.
Donate Your Garden Vegetables
Share your garden of plenty! Gardening is a common trend throughout the spring, summer and autumn months. A lot of the time people have too many tomatoes or greens. What about donating any extra produce to your local food bank?
Food pantries usually give out food a couple days during the week and typically in the morning. I suggest finding the specific time food is given out, and bring in the fresh produce or other whole food. These fresh foods will be given a home and won’t sit on the shelves and go bad. My feeling is the food banks would be thrilled to be able to receive fresh food (either organic or conventional) to distribute to people in need. The more fresh fruit and vegetables entering these food bank distribution centers would lead to more people eating quality food.
Organic Food Drives
There are food drives dedicated to gathering massive amounts of non-perishable food items. What if food pantries incorporated real food into food drives? They could have specific days where they could ask the community to bring fresh fruits and vegetables. They could promote the days they want donations in newspapers and online. Local farmers could also donate extra produce crop, and wholesale companies could even contribute nuts and seeds. It could definitely become an event to remember where everyone receives the real food they deserve.
Feeding people in need real food takes one step at time. It may not happen over night; however, I believe it will be possible one day soon. It starts with sharing the knowledge and the benefits of fresh and organic foods. Food pantries would certainly benefit from combining non-perishable food items with some select fresh food items. That way an apple, plum or other produce item could help give the quality nourishment that many people lack—and help keep the doctor away.