Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Food Drives

The Food Bank is one of our usual charities- we write them a biggish check every year.  I know that this is the most efficient way to give to them... and yet, every holiday season there are the food drives. I thought I had it all figured out. Someone in our neighborhood does a food drive every year, dropping a bag off for us to fill and leave back out on our driveway. So I'd go through the cupboards and our emergency kits, and use this as an opportunity to cycle through my canned goods and the like. I see that as a win-win: the food bank gets some food (still at least 6 months from expiring), and I get to keep my emergency food supplies from expiring.

I was feeling a bit smug in how I'd solved that conundrum.

But then the other food drives started. Day care does one, and has the pre-K class sort and count the food. And now Pumpkin's school does one, too. So what to do? Ignore them and just tell myself that I don't have to feel bad because we write that check every year? Or send food for three different food drives?

So far, I've been sending food for all the drives. I tell myself that the day care and school food drives are good opportunities to start teaching my girls about how fortunate we are and how that means we should try to help other people who aren't as lucky. I have Pumpkin help pick the food for her drive, and next year, Petunia will be old enough to do the same. It is an inefficient method of giving, but it feels like the right thing to do.

I'm still trying to figure out what to do about toy drives, though....


  1. Now that we're grown up, my parents usually write a check to their favorite charities, rather than doing food drives, toy drives, operation shoebox or giving money to Salvation Army Santas. But when we were kids, they did do these things and we participated in choosing food and toys and packing shoeboxes and even giving part of our allowance money to Santa (because it's more fun than mailing your allowance away!). For younger kids, I think the concreteness off giving an actual object makes a bigger impression than knowing that your parents support charities in ways you can't see.

    I'm sure doing all the drives and such is more of a hassle, and less efficient, but in the long run if it makes lifelong givers out of your kids, it will pay off, right? And once your kids are in high school you can go back to the checks! :-)

  2. Anonymous7:33 AM

    I like the multiple food drives this year because I forgot to set out the food at I think *four* of them. We ended up handing the trick-or-tread food drive a bag we'd packed up for the boy scouts. Whew.

    I wish we had a toy drive we could drop off to-- now that DC1 is in 2nd grade, the gift closet has a bunch of stuff that is too young to be given. We'll probably end up holding onto them until DC2 starts going to parties in 3 years unless we move first. It's hard because goodwill won't take toys even if they're still in their packaging.

  3. For me, it's about what's easy to manage. I commute to work by bus most days, so my work drive is not getting food from me. But I drive Baguette to day care, so that drive got canned goods.

    I think you're inspiring a post in me.

  4. Calee8:43 AM

    #1 - Thank you for donating to the Food Bank. The OC one is the key source of food for my husband's organization.
    #2 Giving away tangible items helps kids understand the reality of the need and the reality of their ability to fill it. One thing we do is either obtain a shopping list from an organization or make one ourselves and let our oldest help pick out the food to give away from the grocery store shelves. When you're shopping for your family, if Pumpkin can read the list and help find the items, she'll take some serious ownership of that food drive. Another lesson can be in looking at prices and comparing -- this can is .79 or these are 2 for 1.29. Which should we buy? If she's really into the math of it, you can give her a calculator and let her add up the cost of the groceries to give away as you go. It's a nice way to give kids understanding of how much things cost and the reality check that yes, some families in our area eat for less than $20 a week and it's a wonderful thing that we can provide a little extra for ourselves and them.

  5. Given that you're writing a check, I think one "other" drive per kid is plenty to teach "the lesson about giving". Maybe let them pick food vs. toy?

    But, I'm the person who purposely skipped the United Way drive at my previous employer because of the coercive way they ran it and kept harping on individuals about their participation. I just donated on my own and publicly declined the one at work. I'm not up for public shaming re: charity participation. (Which is often something that happens at toy drives and the like through school, too.) Just putting it out there in case you are feeling more "should" than "want".

    1. I do the same thing. I've worked at two places with UW drives. One involved coercion and one didn't. So I refused to participate in the first, and was willing to participate in the second.

    2. Yep. My current employer is MUCH better about it - they stress participation, but aren't keeping track of individual giving (it's all confidential). Plus any donations to any nonprofit the entire year "count".

  6. I use food drives to cycle through our emergency food, too. Like you, I would probably contribute a little bit to each food drive. I think of it as a good way to share Costco-sized quantities of things that I can't go through fast enough or don't have room to store.

  7. @Cloud - good point about giving cash as the most efficient way. That way the food bank can buy what they really need, hopefully at a bulk discount (kid-friendly fare, protein -- which they have more use for than the unappetizing old cans of cranberry sauce and such that drives can turn up).


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