Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 31

Thread: Values puzzle at foodbank

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Posts
    2,667

    Values puzzle at foodbank

    So, I ran across a quote once that said "when I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. This is my religion." That works for me as a basic foundation.

    i'm sure people work at the food bank for many reasons. Most of them have been connected through ther churches. Some come as part of company service projects, and I have the impression that a few are there to meet "workfare" program requirements.

    i am there because in the current political/social climate I have a greater need to meet, get to know, and understand my neighbors, and because anything I can think of to do about issues that matter to me makes me feel less powerless, less hypocritical, and less panicked.

    there are things at the foodbank that bother me. I am trying not to judge. I am trying not to project my values onto other people. Many of these people have helped to keep this place running for decades. I choose to go on the assumption that they know what they are doing and the motivations behind their actions are reasonable and positive. It still bugs me when they do things like skim off the gluten free brownie mix or almond butter to take home. I think those things need to be available to the population they were donated to, then again, some of the volunteers might qualify as part of that population and just not be registered. Pride is strong.

    otoh, some of the volunteers who do this also criticise some of the clients as greedy for taking too much cake or bread (there are no limits) or comment on their weight.

    Several volunteers fill a bag with food items every week. They also take food to cook for church events. They are very open about it - one woman came back today and asked me if we had any canned pumpkin. I said "one" and she said "oh good, can you get it for me, so-and-so is making a pie for such-and-such dinner and she never takes any pumpkin." I handed her the pumpkin. I didn't ask about the taking. I want to ask, because I want to understand, but I'm afraid it's a violation of their social conventions. (Is it an unspoken rule that we don't talk about the unspoken rules?)

    they have accepted me warmly, even when they give me strange looks for not knowing things like which Monday is the Monday after Easter. I'm sure part of it is my relative youth, strength, and energy level, but I try to be polite, positive and helpful. I may need more direction than they would like, but I take direction well.

    they have been very nice about cooperating with my need to recycle their plastic wrap. Even though I am probably a little OCD about it.

    leftover/expired food goes to a woman who picks it up for her chickens and sometimes brings eggs, or sometimes to mike's pigs - who provide nothing, but mike works hard. And lately Ruth - the self proclaimed "Jesus nazi" (who bugs people to go to church, but not me for some reason) has taken to insisting I take a box or two for my chickens on days the regular chicken lady doesn't come.

    i feel bad about this, but I can't decide if it's "doing bad". Part of it is that my chickens are not donating eggs - my family is eating all the eggs. Part of it is that Ruth - whose job includes purging the bread table every day, often throws in bread that is new and fresh because "nobody ever takes this stuff" (whole grains, rye, pumpernickel, raisin, sour dough - bread I love, which I then eat instead of giving to the chickens) so, I feel a little like I am undeservedly taking bread from people who need it, or eggs from people who need them (surely the bread could sit around getting even more stale for a few days until the other lady comes) or from mike's pigs (although he doesn't seem to mind).

    otoh, I like having the bread.

    today they gave me a 25lb bag of rice. They have been trying to give it to me for three weeks. I keep asking if we can't offer it to someone. They think no one will ever eat that much rice, and we are not allowed to repackage it (health dept). Today they insisted I take it "for the chickens" to free the shelf space. The expiration date is over a year away. I will eat that much rice. But I just feel a little sad about it.

    i also feel sad because Ruth spent her shift loudly tearing someone down today. Someone who won't be coming back to the food bank because Ruth told her her shift had been filled (by me) because they don't want her there anymore. She stopped coming to church. And she has a boyfriend half her age. And she's a hoarder. I tried to say I was a hoarder and to offer some insight, but I literally couldn't get a word into the conversation without talking over someone.

    i think I need some feedback on this stuff from outside. Anyone?
    Last edited by Chicken lady; 4-7-17 at 6:01am.

  2. #2
    Senior Member flowerseverywhere's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    1,983
    I donate a lot of food to our local food banks. I would cease to donate it if I found out that the workers were skimming off the good stuff and find another thing to do with my charity time and money.
    Sending expired food or nearly stale bread home with the workers for chicken or to cook immediately with is another story. I would rather see that than have it thrown away. I disagree about not putting out the rye bread. Surely put it out and if no one takes it, we'll that is another story.

    One thing about bout the big bag of rice. It takes time to cook. You need a good working stovetop and a sturdy pot to cook. Are you sure everyone has that? My experience of working in mental health taught me that a lot of people lack the skills to plan or the equipment to cook something that seems very simple to me.

    it sounds like there is quite a bit of dysfunction and possible misuse of their non profit status. They should not be taking food intended for the registered clients. That is stealing and wrong. can you go there week after week and not say anything? Will the gossipy and judgemental nature you have described drive you craz or will you be able to work past all that?

  3. #3
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    11,079
    It sounds like a typical volunteer organization to me with the typical amount of dysfunction.

    After working there for a while CL, you will know if it is true that no one takes the rye bread, or a 25 lb of rice will just sit there if you don't take it, or gluten free brownie mix isn't popular with the clients they serve. Sit tight, learn the details.

    we have 25 lbs of Jasmine rice sitting in our cupboard along with 10 lbs of basmati rice. Yeah, no one ever eats that much rice. [eyeroll.] But certainly, people need to have cooking equipment and skills to use it up, and flowers is right, that may not be a lot of people.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    2,393
    My husband has gotten some first hand experience at a local small food bank and our best friends often worked at several. He picks up from our huge distribution center and delivers to the church food bank. It takes an enormous amount of work on a constant basis year round to run these operations whether small or large. People are people whatever they are doing. Please remember there would be NO food banks without the constant work of the volunteers. And they have seen the good and the bad.

    1. There is food that will never be taken by anyone that comes. It is available but sticks around for weeks. They have limited storage space including refrigerator and freezer space. For example, a high quality ($20 a pound) white cheddar cheese will not be taken but yellow Kraft is never left. Healthy breads (brown), skim milk, almond butter, gluten free stuff,etc. are generally not taken. Snacks both salty and sweet are however very popular.

    2. Things that require much preparation is not taken. Certain vegetables just hang around. They may not be perfect but it takes cooking ideas and skill to turn them into something. Flour does not get chosen at our site.

    3. We dont get to choose brands only categories. So the brands vary from week to week and depends on what is donated by individuals and huge grocery chains.

    4. Some states allow for repackaging. We sometimes get huge packages of bacon and dried apricots or other commercial sizes and repackage. But this takes care and knowledge to do it safely. They try never to bring in large commercial packages or gallon sizes due to these issues but sometimes they are found in big boxes from the central site.

    5. Already prepared food, if not taken during the next give away, is either thrown away or given to anyone that can use it, for example as chicken feed. We do not choose this but are given the prepared food for free during a regular pickup.

    My husband want to say that all this depends on the size of the food site and the mix of customers they serve. We have huge ones that are like grocery stores and small ones like this local church. At the huge ones, the food is delivered to them on pallets. We fill one pickup per week. He also wanted to say that if there were no food banks, the huge warehouses of food would go to landfills or to animal feed if allowed by the state and there would be a lot more hungry people.

    I also have to say that the space, electricity, repair, gasoline, use of trucks, people time, equipment, and supplies are all donated and often just by the people of the church or other volunteers like my husband.

    Do not let the "perfect" be the enemy of the "good".

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Posts
    298
    All good thoughts on above posts and it is easy to forget sometimes that not everyone "in need" has the same skills as others. I feel into that line of thought a few times. A elderly neighbor one time worked the food bank for many years in the very small town mostly rural area. I remember her main gripe was the lack of knowledge of how to prepare the non ready to serve foods. The seasons that farmers would bring in Beans and such, some days they would just sit because as she told me many had no idea what to do with them. Can spaghetti was a hit, yet the assorted single items to make it which made a so much more for dinner, would not move off the shelf. Her gripe was education on how to prepare was needed or maybe even required.

    My sil told me she could just go get laundry soap and food at the food bank and no one ever asks how much money she had or any questions. ANGER I felt actually as I knew the main diet for them was subway and pizza. But they were and do have a hard time managing money. SO I suppose not for me to judge.

    Keep up your good work!

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Posts
    2,667
    When I am there, and she tries to give me the good bread during set up, I suggest that we leave it out and if no one takes it, I'll grab it when we close. I think a couple loaves have been claimed. I know all the naan went one day - she made a surprised face at me when she saw the woman choose it. But when I'm not there, I don't think she puts it out.

    The general consensus is that all anybody wants is sliced white bread - and that does fly off the shelf. And people ask about it if we are out. Ruth's reply in that situation is "all we have are hamburger buns" or "nope. We're out." If I were doing bread, I would add "have you tried the country sourdough or semolina? I really like them."

    I jokingly say say my religious affiliation is "starfish thrower" from the story about the boy on the beach. So I have this weird conviction that if one mom makes her kid a sandwich on rye bread out of desperation and the kid likes it, I will have shifted my community in a healthier direction.

    My biggest goal with the negativity is not to get sucked in. I'm jaded enough to expect it in any group of humans, and I know Ruth has a lot of physical and emotional pain in her life. I keep trying to tell a positive story every time i go. So far they haven't nick-named me Pollyanna. Also I have to remind myself not to throw their religion at them. It's a long term habit of mine and learning to break it would probably be good for me. (I.e. "Ruth, how would Jesus handle that situation?" - it helps that Ruth is old enough and jaded enough and snarky enough that her reply would likely be "I'm not Jesus.")

    with the the taking of food - all of these people are "seniors" so they qualify to sign up for a monthly food pick up. The monthly food pick up for one person is about 4 bags of food. Which is more than most of them take in a month - they just take it a little each week and cherry pick. Otoh, I've never seen anybody take eggs or milk - which we sometimes run out of. By not signing up, they do create an undercount on the number of people we serve, which does affect our funding a little. Some of them donate food as well, or bring cleaning supplies and bags from home and I do not at this time (I will take garden surplus). I feel like it's too complicated for me to judge.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Posts
    298
    Chicken Lady, you are a good person. I love the Starfish Thrower response. I may take that from you!

  8. #8
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    11,079
    I think volunteers may also get into a mindset of "I donate my labor, I get to help myself to spoils." And in some cases that is ok, in others it is not.

    Right now our plant society is shifting from a mindset of "save all monies of the organization" to "spend the money, dammit, because we are disbanding." It is kind of a Die Broke philosophy coming to life.

    My least favorite society member still has all kinds of helpful ideas on how to save money. She is our Idea Person! Funny how all of her ideas mean that someone else ends up driving all over town, or sitting on the computer or in offices, to do the things she thinks need to be done in the name of saving money. To CL I say:don't be that person. But I know you are not!

    The governing board of the food bank should have made a statement about volunteers taking food. Maybe there is such a thing, and maybe it is ok according to the rule. Maybe the rules aren't clear. Or maybe as you say the volunteers themselves DO qualify as clients. If any senior citizen qualifies, those qualifications seem pretty open.

    Also, to me, a major point of food bank administration is something that sweetenana touched on and it is Huge in my mind.The overhead and administrative costs of distribution are enormous when weighed against the street value of this food. Do not worship the food. Instead, respect the system that allows the food to be distributed. The physical plant and labor and gasoline and etc costs real money, although that all maybe a sunk cost by now. These food products have already been produced and the earth's resources used up in their production.

    personally I think it is great that pigs eat the stale stuff.

  9. #9
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    11,079
    Also, our food bank here has paid nutritionists (probably gumbment paid) to conduct healthy cooking classes. Also loads of simple how-to cook pages are produced. I know because I pick them up when I am picking up trash at my ghetto property.

    It makes me tear out my hair when people assume that instruction is not forthcoming. It is there for those who are open to learning. Otherwise, let them eat Wonder
    Bread, salami, and cheese slices. That is what the churches pass out for,lunch because that's likely what people eat.

    Food choices are very much a cultural value.

  10. #10
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    4,288
    At our Soup Kitchen, we work hard to have a healthy diet started from scratch. Salad is often discarded, any kind of meat is rated highly and the day-old baked donations of buns and cakes from the local grocery stores are extremely popular.
    I get annoyed when I hear discussions about the cost of the average food basket when determining the budget of the low income. Dieticians want to include the cost of year-round fresh vegetables and fruit. So many don't eat them but prefer canned or none.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •