Mary Beth Writes


GNTL - Grownups Noticing Their Lives 

Food Pantry – Consider Donating NOW

I’ve been volunteering at the local food pantry once a week since March. This is a satisfying volunteer gig; it doesn’t require prep and I don’t think much about it when I’m not there. I work with other genial volunteers who tend to also be retired folks. (But not all.) We work pretty hard, chat a little, and then when the morning’s work is done we leave.

There are diverse but related areas in which to volunteer. I work in the warehouse where pallets of food are delivered from various grocery purveyors. We break those pallets down into crates of fruits, vegetables, meats, and frozen or refrigerated prepared foods that get moved to the cooler or freezer lockers. There is a logical flow of where foods go after they leave us.

Our particular task is ensuring the food we are passing along is healthy, not past its expiration date, in good shape - and the bottom line is “Would you buy this food in this condition?” If produce is soggy or moldy or gamy we toss it into boxes where at the end of the day local farmers pick it up for their animals. If the clamshell of berries has one of two yucky fruits, we pull them out and put the rest of the good fruit in a crate to be distributed. If there are lots of yucky berries, the whole thing gets tossed. This takes several hours but it makes sense. I usually leave around 1:00 and by then there is a line of people waiting their turn to enter the donation room that is set up like a mini grocery store. They choose foods they know their families would like to eat.

Here’s why I am explaining this.

It’s summer. It’s August. It is taking an HOUR less to sort the donations than it did in the spring. It’s not a crisis but it’s not good. From what I’ve overheard in conversations between full-time employees and others, this sometimes happens, especially in summer. Grocery stories donate more perishable fruits that don’t last as well. Grocery stories are trying, these days, to minimize their waste, so they have less to donate. (They get tax credits for donated foods actually distributed.)

The Post Office does less ambitious food drives; in other years those drives brought in canned goods that lasted longer into the summer. Organizations that donate foods are less active in the summer.

Can you consider donating to your local food pantry? If you have time and like to stand up and move around for a few hours, maybe donate time. If you have money, consider sending a check.

And if while you are shopping you notice a good sale on foods, particularly canned or boxed goods - buy extra to donate! Ordinary canned vegetables and fruits. Spaghetti sauce. Boxes of pasta. Peanut butter and jams. If it's in a container where it can be stored for a few weeks and it’s a food you and your family like, buy some to donate.

I read frugal blogs where people are often happy at the amazing deals they find that they then take home to store or freeze for their families. Some of us have these kinds of “provisioning skills.” Maybe it’s time to use our abilities for others.

Anyways, I worked two hours today, not three. I decided I would donate my last hour writing this.

The politics of why people are hungry is utterly maddening. No matter what, people are struggling and are hungry. Many of those people are kids or seniors. We can help.

Plus this! If you are a gardener with those humorous zucchini harvest problems, by all mean, check with your food pantry about how to donate. Here in Waukesha, there's a garden produce donation rack and those shelves are a distinct place of beauty in our county. I didn’t think to take a photo this morning, but it was laden with green and yellow zucchinis, boxes of yellow and red tomatoes, big lacy bunches of dill.

We can do this.

This is the Waukesha Food Pantry website:






Thank by sharing food with friends who are hungry.

I am a monthly sustaining donor to the Roadrunner Food Pantry -- have been for years. Food donations are welcome, but pantries also need cash and this is an easier way for me to help. It feels good to know I am doing something they can count on every month. My body is currently not up to doing anything more present or physical, so I am grateful that the sustainer donations are an option. Your reminder is a timely one -- people need food 365 day a year.
Mary Beth's picture

Absolutely. Many of the people are volunteers but operating the huge place, paying utilities, paying the awesome employees - this requires serious cash. Donating money and doing it regularly is an enormous gift into our world.

I donate boxes of cereal to a food pantry that supplies homeless families. Every week my niece searches the ads online and finds the best deals for me. I usually buy one get one free. I have noticed a steady increase in the price of cereal over the last few months.
Mary Beth's picture

This is exactly awesome!! Using our variously frugal skills to help support people in our communities.

I am a retired letter carrier. I remember the woman who ran the food pantry in our town remarking how the letter carrier's food drive in May would always take them through the summer. I'm sad to think this isn't the case anymore. At this point in time, I donate food to an inner-city elementary school (my old alma mater!) which the students' parents can take home. Donating and volunteering are good for the soul!
Mary Beth's picture

This is what I overheard - that in past years those letter carrier assisted drives carried food programs for months - but they don't happen as much or as energetically anymore and it makes a marked difference in the supplies available to give to families in need.

MB, This is a great reminder, thank you:) Our library has boxes for food donations year round for the local food pantry. I keep a laundry basket in my car and when I grocery shop I often buy extra super sale items and put them in the laundry basket when I load my groceries in the car. Then the next time I am at the library, I drop off whatever I have accumulated in the basket.
Mary Beth's picture

This is a powerful and simple idea. I like it and am going to try to do this, too. Thanks

Feeding people is my passion. I have volunteered with organizations in Al, AK, CO, MS and VT! Never have I known of people so hungry..even in 2008. Please go through your pantries and pull things that your family decided they didn’t want to eat and donate those foods. Many pantries can take food past its date. If you are able, donate cash. Food pantries can use an economy of scale you and I cannot…think pallets of canned corn for only the transportation cost! Those children, seniors and others out there need our help. We can make a real difference. You would want someone to help out your momma or your grandkids, wouldn’t you?
Mary Beth's picture

This is awesome. Yep. Once in a while I've been present when Feeding America sends a shipment of something. There is one of two pallets of just one thing and OMG it never lasts long.

This is a great reminder for all! We have a food pantry affiliated with our church that we donate to. Life is hard, it’s a big thing to help! Thanks again.
Mary Beth's picture

And I know you live in rural area near a small community. From what I've read, it's often folks far from cities who are struggling the hardest.

We are visiting friends on Washington Island for a few days.. Yesterday morning L and I went out for coffee, most places were closed so we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things.. At the end of the checkout was a plastic bucket for the local food pantry here.. YES!! It's a tourist destination in the summer months but just like anywhere else, local people are struggling and hungry, plus it's harder for these same people come winter.. I dumped all of the cash and some change into that bucket, much to the surprise of our cashier.. I don't know how much it was , but it's never really enough.. I have been there.. Early in my 30's having lost my steady paying job and walking away from my first LTP, leaving with only my clothes and a few other things.. I was trying to start an upholstery business from scratch.. I was too proud to go to a food pantry so I lived off what little I could afford.. None of my friends knew (It was my little secret) any of this.. That's easier to do as a single person, but if I had had a husband/wife and kids we wouldn't have survived.. So now that I have made it to retirement and I have more food than I can eat I try to look back at my life, never willing to forget the struggle and donate accordingly.. I hope my little story helps people realize that one never knows who in their lives is in need of help and struggling.. Please donate without bias.. ...

In addition to helping to stock a community pantry's shelves, look around for the community's/local churches' curbside pantry box/"blessing box." You can help stock them as well as donate to food pantries.

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Grownups Noticing Their Lives


Most of you know about my former weird and lovely job of coordinating an employability skills program for Huber-qualified inmates in the Racine County Jail (that’s a mouthful). Early on I realized that most of the people I would work with were people with 1.) huge addiction problems, and 2.) underlying and over-the-top and to-the-side just lying around mental health issues.

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