I went to drop off food at a church’s pantry center this week for the first time, following a commitment I have made to donate on a regular basis. I entered the church to inquire about handing over my canned goods (vegetables, pasta sauce and chilli beans), pasta, and mashed potatoes, and it was truly a beehive of activity. Volunteers were manned at several tables, with each table standing in for a grocery store aisle, featuring similar kinds of items. At the entrance, several volunteers were on hand to get newcomers started and to inform them of other useful services. There was steady foot traffic in and out of the pantry the whole time.
After a couple of volunteers helped me empty my car of the items, I went to inquire about what kinds of nonperishable things the pantry needed, so I could be more helpful in the future. The most sought-out items were canned meats (chicken, ham and tuna), peanut butter, crackers, juice (100% juice was stressed, with disdain for plying kids with sugary beverages), spaghetti, and spaghetti sauce (canned or in plastic jars).
I am glad to have their recommendations, and I will definitely use them to shape what I bring the next time. It will also challenge me to think up other shelf-stable items I can buy in large quantities that help nutritionally more than harm.
It saddens me to think the number of people who need this kind of assistance seems to be on a steady increase during this volatile economic period, but it encourages me that the assistance is available, and that there is a preference for items that fill stomachs and are the best choices for meeting nutritional requirements. I know from stocking up for last year’s rare Midlantic-touching hurricane and from reading about the recent poverty awareness challenge that many nonperishables are not necessarily at the pinnacle of healthy eating, but I believe there are decent options, with a little detective work and an open mind.
I’ve been concerned lately about healthy food options for people of all socioeconomic levels, and I will keep thinking along these lines, to inform what I write about on this blog, and what I end up donating. Healthy food should not be exclusive to the tables of people of means.