My office has a great policy where they encourage us to volunteer a certain number of hours a year, even during work hours, so I spent the morning packing food at the local food bank. I’ve got to say, it was a really eye opening experience.

First of all, I’m in awe at the amount of organization and precision that goes into the service that feeds a city as big as mine (which isn’t even that huge a city). Everything ran like clockwork, and everyone knew where to be and what to do.

I was also a little thrown at how hard it must be to be on a certain meal plan if depending on the food bank. So many starches, so little vegetables and meat. I get why that is, cost-wise, but I can just imagine how hard it must be to have Crohn’s disease (for example) and keep that under control if using the donated foods.

Next time I’m buying foods to donate, I’m definitely going to be going about it a different way. Size of the food is so important! All the “one person” bundles had to fit in a certain sized bag, and so many had to fit in a certain sized box that had to be stacked on a skid for transit. Oversized or oddly shaped bags or boxes were next to useless. I’ve always tried to get whole-wheat pasta for food drives, but now I just think how much harder those (since they come in boxes) were to fit in a bag than a bag of spaghetti noodles, which meant that the recipient got less food in the end.

There were SO MANY cans of peas and corn. Next time, I’m looking for any other canned vegetable to give. Now that I know how the food is divided (1 bag pasta or rice, 1 can sauce, three cans veggies, 1 can fruit, 1 box cereal, etc, etc), I think I’m going to try to maximize what I donate to make sure it’s most valuable for it’s type and size.

I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but in Canada (or at least in my area), macaroni and cheese counts as it’s own food type, and everyone box got its own allotment. 1 person got 1 box of M&C a week, a family of 2 or 3 got 2, etc, etc. It’s considered to be separate from pasta and side dishes. Also, while most of the donations seemed to be store brands, most of the M&C was Kraft Dinner. I find this humorous. It just seems very Canadian.