Times are tough; we see it every day. The number of homeless people is increasing, and the percentage of children who go hungry is at an alarming level. One of the most common ways people in the United States deal with hunger is to hold food drives to round up non-perishable goods to help feed those in need.
I once worked at a food drive sponsored by a local business group. During the Christmas Holiday season, they sponsored a free movie at a local theater. When I say free, what I mean is the cost of admission was one non-perishable food item per person. The food collected was then donated to area food pantries. Most people brought really good stuff: boxes of cold cereal, canned veggies and beans, and macaroni and cheese dinners to name just a few. One person brought a gigantic can of butterscotch topping suitable for use on ice cream. This is a moment when my inability to have a snappy comment come to me really stands out. I wanted to say something sarcastic, like “Oh thank you — this will feed a lot of hungry people!” This person was clearly not thinking about what they were doing, they were just trying to get rid of something they bought on a whim and were now embarrassed to own, never giving a thought to what the actual purpose of the food drive was. It made me tremendously sad, and since this was two decades ago, it obviously stuck in my mind.
Donating to food drives is pretty easy. Pick out food you know will be nourishing and tasty. Here’s a handy list of the preferred items to donate:
Meals in a can (soup, stew, chili)
Tuna or canned chicken
Canned foods with pop-top lids
Canned fruit in its own juice or water
Low-sodium canned vegetables
Olive or canola oil
Low-sugar whole grain cereals
Healthy snacks (granola bars, nuts, dried fruit)
Non-food items are also essential, and likewise very much appreciated. Since food stamps don’t cover any of these things, people in need have to stretch their limited funds even further to acquire the cleaning/hygiene products most people take for granted. More likely, they just have to do without. Here’s a list of needed non-food items that food pantries are always looking for:
Liquid dish soap
Plastic food storage bags
Sanitary napkins and tampons
Tooth brushes and paste
The Food bank that’s local to me is Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin. Second Harvest is part of a nationwide network called Feeding America. Here’s the link to Feeding America’s WEBSITE. There’s an easy way to find a food bank local to you on the very first page.
Picking up an extra item or two on your regular grocery run is simple and doesn’t cost much. The toughest part for me is remembering to bring the goods I’m donating to the food drive!
I’ve become involved recently with the group Steampunk Provisions, a collection of folks volunteering their time to collect food donations at steampunk events and get them to a local food pantry. So far we’ve done collections at TeslaCon in 2016, and at Geneva Steam in 2017, and hope to help organize several more this year at other Steampunk events. If you’d like to help, or want to organize a food drive at your local steampunk event, swing by the Steampunk Provisions Facebook page, HERE sign up, and start a conversation about what you’d like to do.
Being hungry is no joke, especially for the millions of children who don’t have enough to eat. Please help keep food on the table while people in rough circumstances put their lives back together.