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It’s valid: Fact checking that social media food bank post

Culture, Headlines

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Versions of this social media post admonishing food bank donors to do better has been floating around Facebook for a couple of weeks.

A post that’s been appearing regularly on social media admonishing people to change the way they donate to food banks has valid points, but may apply mostly to small food pantries rather than large food banks.

The post, which appears under many different names but is often dated Nov. 19, offers 20 tips it says were gathered from food bank customers the writer personally talked to.

Among them:

  • Don’t donate Kraft macaroni and cheese because it requires milk and butter, which is hard to get from “regular food banks.”
  • Oil and spices are rarely donated and would be appreciated.
  • People picking up food can’t use canned goods unless someone also donates a can opener.
  • Feminine hygiene products and dishwashing detergents are items that people want and need.

“The list is valid,” said Kim Turner, spokeswoman for the Food Bank of Delaware. “We do try to fill in some of the gaps but I think a very small food pantry that might not have the buying power that a food bank has.”

The Food Bank relies on cash donations as well as food from individuals, corporations, food industry companies and the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, for example, started providing boxes of fresh produce as the COVID-19 pandemic began and that still continues. The Food Bank also buys additional fresh produce boxes because they are so popular.

The cash that’s donated allows the Food Bank to bulk purchase items at discounts, she said.

The Food Bank provides so much milk and butter that one person who attends their monthly drive-thru pantries sent a note saying they didn’t need as much butter.

It’s true that oil and spices are rarely donated and Turner is sure their clients would appreciate them. She’s not aware of requests for can openers, but believes they also would be appreciated.

“For people like us who have a kitchen that’s pretty much fully stocked, you don’t always think about ‘does a person have a can opener to open this can,’ so I think that’s something nice for people to think about,” she said.

The Food Bank of Delaware does provide feminine hygiene products, as well as diapers and paper products.

“We do try to purchase non-food products,” she said. “So whether that’s like toilet paper or paper towels, diapers for babies, we do try to keep those in stock so that our member agencies have access to them.”

Turner pointed out that the Food Bank considers itself a supplemental source of food and necessities.

“We’re hoping that people are also utilizing other resources,” she said. “If they’re eligible for SNAP (food stamps), we’re hoping that they’re applying for SNAP benefits so that they can buy those other items at the grocery store and then use us to supplement what they might not have enough money left over to purchase or for some of the more expensive items.”

The Food Bank has pathways for people to donate meat and also fresh produce. Many farmers and home gardeners donate produce in the summer.

Perdue, for example, has been donating massive quantities of chicken for almost a decade. Many area grocery stores freeze meats as they near their fresh buy-by date and donate them to the Food Bank.

“We really like to build off our relationships with retailers to help eliminate food waste, so we pick up a lot of frozen meats from the grocery stores like hamburger, chicken, steaks, things that they aren’t able to sell but are still perfectly fine,” she said.

The Food Bank gets weekly deliveries of milk and typically has butter on hand, she said.

The social media post also goes on to say that those using a food bank would appreciate tea bags, coffee, fresh meat, eggs, cake mix and frosting.

“We do try to get eggs out into the community. I don’t think it’s something that happens on a regular basis, but we do receive a lot of liquid egg product from USDA,” Turner said. “So that is a good supplement.”

Coffee, tea and hot chocolate are on the Food Bank’s request list for holiday food drive donations.

The Food Bank of Delaware typically asks for shelf-stable items from average donors.

Its list for holiday food drive donations, for example, includes applesauce, cranberry sauce, oatmeal, cold cereals, pudding mix, canned pumpkin, graham cracker pie crust, canned gravy, rice, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, stuffing, hearty soups, corn muffin mix, canned sweet potatoes and yams, canned peas and green beans, 100% fruit juice, hot chocolate, coffee and tea, evaporated milk, turkey pans and frozen turkeys.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24, the Food Bank and its partners had given away 5,926 turkeys.
Bread is not routinely donated, but when it is, workers try to get it out quickly into the community.
Turner said she had not heard of anyone asking for or “loving” Stove Top Stuffing or Rice-A-Roni in her 13 years at the Food Bank, although she personally likes Stove Top. The Food Bank asks for stuffing for the holidays, but she says they don’t buy Hamburger Helper or Rice-A-Roni, to her knowledge.
Cake mixes also are something the Food Bank does not ask for or buy. That is something she hopes their clients would use their SNAP benefits for.
“We do have a nutrition policy where we try to bring in as much nutritious foods as possible and then distribute those back out into the community because oftentimes what we hear from low-income people is that they have difficulties accessing fresh foods, nutritious foods,” Turner said.
They also serve a lot of people who have diet-related conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.
“We don’t want the foods that we provide people to perpetuate those health conditions,” she said. “Obviously, everybody wants a cake and frosting for their birthday but it’s not like a basic staple.”
Flour and sugar are not requested donations because they are difficult to process. Their paper or plastic bags may not hold up through the process of separating and storing donations and if they break, they will make a mess.
Needs, donations and requests evolve, Turner said.
In the last year, food banks, in general, have focused more on being able to get culturally diverse products into the door and also products for people with dietary restrictions, whether it’s because of a gluten-free, vegan or special diet that requires them to eat specific foods.
“I think in the coming year, we’ll be really focused on trying to obtain more of those foods,” she said.
Referring back to the social media post, she said, “I think all of the organizations are doing the best that they can, but these are all nice things to think about when you want to help the community.”

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