This is a photo of our food pantry. Which items do you think are the most valuable to our families? If you’re unsure, please keep reading.
Have you ever seen the list of foods available to those on “food stamps”, now called SNAP benefits? (FULL LIST) If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never considered this, even if you’re on this program. Let me highlight some of the (less) finer points of our system:
Pepsi is o.k. Toothpaste isn’t. (ironic, huh?) Fat back is fine. Feminine hygiene products are out. (For Northerners, fat back is basically bacon minus any meet.) Cheetos are fine. Toilet paper is not. If this makes no sense, consider this quote from the USDA site linked to above:
“Several times in the history of SNAP, Congress had considered placing limits on the types of food that could be purchased with program benefits. However, they concluded that designating foods as luxury or non-nutritious would be administratively costly and burdensome.”
Huh? So let me get this straight… Those in power are making decisions for the most vulnerable among us that we all know are harmful to them… and their grand excuse is that it’s “administratively costly and burdensome.” Wow. That’s wrong on a variety of levels! But I digress…
As an organization, we feel this most directly in our wallet. Most donations that come into our food pantry are canned goods. We rarely see donations of paper products, toothpaste, etc so we often purchase them for our families. We make weekly runs to our regional food bank, Harvest Hope. We can purchase can goods at pennies on the pound from them and they ALWAYS have them available. They almost never have these other needed products.
So here comes the ask… Let’s break the tradition of can drives. I know they are the social norm. I know cans are convenient, long lasting and we all have some in our pantry. But they are not the items most needed by our families. Deodorant may not be as fulfilling to purchase as food, but try going to a job interview without it. Try sitting with a sick child all night without Tylenol to bring the child’s fever down. These may not be food items, but they are far more valuable to families than a package of Raman noodles!
Here are some items that our families need that we don’t often see at Harvest Hope and they can’t get through their SNAP benefits:
- Toilet paper
- Dish soap
- Feminine hygiene products
- Household cleaners
- Cold medicines (esp for children and infants)
- Pain medicines (esp for children and infants)