Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thoughts on Food and the Lack Thereof

News flash: Twin Cities food shelves weren't able to give out turkeys this year the way they usually do.

This may have something to do with the fact that they've had 43 percent more visits in the last six months, without any increase in donations, according to the Star Tribune. So to provide the greatest good to the greatest number, they've eliminated the turkeys in favor of more important staples.

They're also probably mindful of the fact that eliminating the turkeys would get the story of their financial hardship out in front of more potential donors.

So if you're thinking of donating to your local food shelf or a food bank like Second Harvest Heartland, remember: what they can really use is money.

It drives me crazy that people go to supermarkets and buy food to donate to food shelves, because the food shelves and food banks could have gotten over three times as much food for the same money if those well-intentioned people had just donated the money instead. (I'm sure it varies, but for instance, Second Harvest Heartland says they leverage $9 worth of food from every $1 donated.)

I guess the idea is that people want their children to participate in the purchasing and giving of the food, and I can understand that. But isn't the idea to get food to people who need it, not just create an object lesson for your own well-fed child?

This reminds me of another well-known Twin Cities organization. This group, which is overtly Christian, organizes volunteers from churches and companies to come in and help mix up portions of vitamin-laced dried food. My own daughter went to a birthday party once to help bag the stuff.

After the packages are ready to go, they're shipped to orphanages and "feeding centers" around the world. (Don't get me going on that term "feeding center" -- doesn't it sound like a place where animals are fed?) Mixed with water, it makes a nutritious, if bland, food source. I'm sure the people who get it are happy to have it, compared with the alternative (malnutrition and starvation).

However, I was told by a reputable source that the organization was advised nearly a decade ago that if they automated their food-mixing and packaging process (and therefore decreased the need for volunteer labor), they would be able to greatly increase the amount they could create on the same budget.

You'd think they would have jumped at the chance. But no. They rejected it because they believed that involving volunteers was more important to their mission than feeding the greatest number of people.

If feeding the most people isn't their primary mission, perhaps they should change their name from one that talks about feeding hungry children to something about assuaging the consciences of prosperous American Christians.

What would Jesus do? Somehow I think he'd be a bit more utilitarian.

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

I think you nailed it. More's the pity.