Before Thanksgiving, the Silence of Mary home (a charity my family works with) does a massive giveaway of turkeys, food, and other needed items to families, either directly or through social workers who came to pick up donations for them. And when I say other items, I mean there were coats, blankets, PILES of hand knitted hats, gloves... whatever the Silence could round up that they knew would be needed in the winter.
I took Daniel to volunteer with me that day, so he could see how many people were in need - and they are all through the year, not just during the holidays, but this day is a particularly big drive. He was very helpful, too, carrying bags out to the cars and suggesting different food items to take to the families.
One thing he didn't see, because the Silence is so careful about filtering the donated items, were expired, buggy, or dusty food items being given to the poor. They're really careful to check for expiration dates (and they usually re-write them in large numbers on the top of the can or box, so rotation is easier), and if something is given that is expired, it's thrown away.
Gasp! How wasteful! People could still use that if they were desperate, right? I mean, it's just a "best by" date - I wouldn't eat it, but it's still usable, right?
C'mon. These are human beings, and they have dignity and taste buds. If you haven't touched that dusty old bag of navy beans in the back of your pantry, what makes you think they'll get it and say "yay, protein!"? Why would they feed their children expired, rancid, Bisquick? You might think you would IF you were really poor, but have you ever been that poor? It's depressing! And being given awful food that no one else wants because people felt bad about throwing it away? That's even more depressing.
See, I saw a nice thought online today. A reverse Advent calendar, where instead of taking something out each day, you add a donation item for the food bank. And someone immediately commented "oh, this is good - I need to clean out my pantry anyway!". If your pantry needs to be cleaned out, eat the food or throw it away, if it's that old. But please don't use the food bank as a way to throw away food without throwing it away. If you want to give, then give fresh, palatable, easy foods. Add a box of Oreos while you're at it - I know, obesity crisis, but it will make someone feel cared for. Like someone actually wants them to be happy, not just grateful.
Now, if you've been couponing at CVS and you have a bunch of free goodies that your kids won't touch, by all means, donate them. I guarantee you, toiletry items will be appreciated just as much as SoyJoy bars - it's hard to buy toiletries when you're getting by on food stamps, since there are no programs to help people afford shampoo and toilet paper.
But please - when you give, give things that you would like to see in a bag if you needed food. Someday it could be you at the other side of the food pantry counter.