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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
thoughts on holiday shopping and holiday giving 
21st-Nov-2011 04:43 pm
Christmas Snooch
Almost everyone wants that feeling of a gift well-given, of generosity for a purpose, of kindness spread across humanity. I love reading stories about targeted kindness, such as Seanan McGuire's gift of an extra doll to a hapless Toy's R Us employee for his daughter (link here). But I also appreciate that sometimes, we need a little guidance and help along the way.

What kinds of foods are you planning to put in that donation box? WTOP News, our local advertisement-laden radio station, posted an article on their website that reminds us about food pantry donations. "Many commonly donated foods are high in salt, sugar or calories, making them poor choices for people with high blood pressure, diabetes and other diet-related health problems." [sic] I can totally appreciate that. If I wouldn't eat it, why the heck should I expect someone else to be happy and grateful to have it? I'm tempted to start hitting the shelves at the IGA for my food donations, since they have the best variety of gluten free, sugar free, everything-bad-for-you free foods in my town. Regardless, I at least have a clue to watch for salt as well as sugar contents now.

We love to nail a bargain, a sale, free shipping, and all the other corner-cutting we can find when we shop. Sadly, those desires are driving us to Amazon and Wal-Mart, and away from hours of endless social interaction and visual entertainment to be found at the one-off Old Town markets and Etsy. I'm looking for gifts with emotional satisfaction to purchase as well as to give. I have artwork from the original artist, a handmade bag from the lady at the farmer's market, and CDs ordered from the artists' own websites. I have plans for a craft fair in December, to both sell and buy. My next challenge is to change my book shopping habits. When was the last time you bought a book from the used book store as a gift?

This ramble has been brought to you by a grey afternoon, a browsing of family wish lists, and a cup of tea. For more thoughts on this post, please visit:
http://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/give/ or
21st-Nov-2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
As someone who's had to patronize food pantries very recently, I can tell you a few things that would be appreciated:

Jelly. Food pantries often have jars of gov't PB and day-old bread from local stores, but almost never jelly.
Powdered or canned milk. My family was always running out of milk and perishables are scarce.
Complete pancake mix and syrup-only rarely on the shelves
TP and toiletries - the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul stock these along with food donations, and there's never enough. Families who can't afford food often can't afford deodorant and toothpaste either.
Canned tuna - protein sources are few & far between at pantries.
Ethnic items targeted to your area - salsa, frijoles refritos, sauerkraut, harissa - what kinds of recent immigrants are in your neighborhood?
Mayo, spices, condiments - go a long way to make pantry meals more interesting.
Canned fruit and bottled juice - the only juice my local pantries ever had was some truly revolting grapefruit juice. I *like* grapefruit juice and couldn't drink the stuff.

I do think the quote above was wrongheaded in one way - high in calories" - food insecure people *need* foods high in calories, just not ones from junk.

I think I'm going to turn this into a post - thanks for inspiring me!
22nd-Nov-2011 12:03 am (UTC)
Thank you for the first-hand opinion on the subject, especially the reminder that one needs jelly for a real PB&J and the reminder for ethnic goodies - not everyone wants a PB&J for comfort food.
22nd-Nov-2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
The other thing that we had brought to our attention when we were starting to work with the food pantries here in Ohio is the number of kids now with peanut allergies. Non-peanut spreads that have long shelf life, such as Nutella, are greatly needed. For those folks who have high blood pressure, Muir Organic canned goods have a low or no-sodium version of almost everything. And here at least, they are cheaper to purchase than Del Monte.
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