Donating items to the needy has been a part of every society since the invention of “trade” was created. We should all strive to help others because it’s part of being a good person. There are many forms of donation including clothing, housing, medical, money, and food. When it comes to food, people think the easiest way to help the needy is by buying large amounts of canned food for cheap or giving away their long-forgotten food cans that have been hiding in their pantry.
Although their intentions are good, it is the wrong way to go about helping the less fortunate. If a person wants to make a bigger impact when it comes to charity and feeding those that can’t feed themselves, one should donate cash instead. Which, in turn, is a perfect opportunity to donate during this year’s Giving Tuesday.
Surprisingly, charity organizations would much prefer donators to give money in the form of a check. In the article posted on Time.com titled “Is It Better to Donate Food or Money Around the Holidays?”, writer Martha C. White speaks to the CEO of Meals on Wheels of San Francisco. She writes, “If you’re looking to make the biggest impact with a donation, the best bet is to write a check.” We’ve all been taught to be protective of our money at all costs, but there are times when people should put their paranoia to the side and give what they can to these groups that can stretch the donated money a long way.
With the creation of warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, donators think they are getting a good deal with the number of canned goods they purchase and turn around to donate. However, that is not the case when it comes to what charities can do with that dollar. On TruTV’s show “Adam Ruins Everything” Genevieve Riutor, Chief Development Office of the West Food Bank, comments on canned food drives versus cash donations. She states, “Canned food drives don’t suck but they’re not the most efficient way to give. The truth is, the best way to help a food bank is to donate money because we buy food on a wholesale level and we work with farmers, so we can take the dollar that you might spend on a single can of beans and turn it into exceptionally more food.”
Though intentions are in the right place when it comes to donating food in this way, the people involved in these organizations are better equipped in this matter to get the most bang for their buck.
The typical method for charitable townsfolk to come together is to grab whatever type of canned foods they have and hastily ship them out to victims of natural disasters. This is a bad idea and should be better thought out before action is taken. Researching on Slate.com, writer Mattew Yglesias reports in his article “Can the Cans”, that putting together a food drive quickly and unprepared can do more harm than good. He writes, “A nationwide network of food banks called Feeding America gingerly notes on its website that “a hastily organized local food drive can actually put more strain on your local food bank than you imagine.”
Food dropped off by well-meaning citizens needs to be carefully inspected and sorted. A personal check, by contrast, can be used to order what’s needed without placing extra burdens on the staff.
Food drives created in the time of need have always sounded like a helpful thing to do when it comes to helping others but without proper planning, the effort almost becomes pointless.
Matthew Yglesias mentioned how the food banks must inspect and sort through these canned foods. People seem to forget the inconvenience it is to store or move the food they are donating. In many cases, organizers find it difficult to use the canned food towards a family’s meal plan that would benefit them the best way. Upon reading Tristin Hopper’s article “I'm Begging You: Stop Donating Canned Goods to Food Banks” on NationalPost.com, she points out an often-missed observation. She writes, “Canned goods have a particularly low rate of charitable return. They’re heavy, they’re awkward and they can be extremely difficult to fit into a family’s meal plan.”
Something to think about when it comes to the logistics of moving large amounts of canned food.
Another part of donating food is that people seem to forget the importance of healthy eating. Sure, a can of soup can be very thoughtful and would allow a warm meal to be served to any starving person. Yet, one would also have to take in to account what’s in the soup. Most canned foods are packed with sodium and preservatives that could do serious harm over time.
In Time.com’s article “Is It Better to Donate Food or Money Around the Holidays?” writer Martha C. White quotes Ross Fraser, a Feeding America Spokesman. She states, “The things that are most useful are going to be protein products — peanut butter, canned meat, shelf-stable milk, tuna fish.”
Fraser also says it’s important to make sure you’re giving healthy food. Feeding America found that one-third of households receiving food assistance have a family member with diabetes, and more than half have a member with hypertension.
A noble act indeed but not realizing what kind of additives that are in these canned foods is looked over far too often.
People who donate have the right idea when it comes to helping those in their time of need but most of the time, the execution is wrong. Some seem to forget the idea that when a donation is in the form of a check, it can be used as a tax write off. Remember that hungry people can’t eat whatever is given to them. Folks who wish to stake their claim in giving to charity should think about the best and effective method there is to make a difference because just giving canned food is doing more harm than good.
A few charities worth donating are Thre Humane Society of The United States, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, UNICEF, The WIN Foundation, or The Pine Street Inn which strives to end homelessness.