Monday, September 20, 2010

Double Edged Sword

I try to be grateful when I visit the food pantry but there are times that I leave discouraged because the pickings are so slim. It is clear that the food given is only meant to supplement one's groceries or pantry staples. But that is a problem when you don't have the money to shop for milk, meat, eggs, cheese and fresh fruits and vegetables. So you get some spaghetti noodles but don't have sauce or meat to go with it. Likewise, a package of hamburger helper. The items you walk out with are supplemental and not worth much on their own. Thank goodness we have not yet reached the point of having to eat a can of black beans on their own for a meal.

Here is the list of items from today's excursion to one of the local food pantries. By this time of the month my refrigerator is bare but I do have pantry items remaining such as spaghetti sauce, although it is canned and God awful - the worst I've ever tasted. Luckily, I have a few dollars left from the sale of some gold jewelry that I took to the pawn shop so I will be able to add to these items ground turkey, turkey sausage and turkey burger patties, all purchased at the end of code date and with coupons besides so I am paying at most for a package of meat, $1.50. I will go to the ethnic grocery store for a few packages of fresh fruit that they sell in packages for $1.29. This should hold us until I can write a check at the grocery store for some real food, Sept. 28th. That is two days before payday so the check shouldn't bounce and we'll have better food in the house.

Bread Items
- Package of 4 Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (The local Starbucks donates its bakery items at or near code and going to this pantry on Monday is a perk to be able to pick up a Starbucks treat. I remember the distant days when I'd often pop into a Starbucks for a hot tea and pastry. Now the only way we enjoy these treats is one some are available at the pantry. But it is still a treat!
- Starbucks Apple Fritter - I ate this for breakfast and was in heaven!
- 2 Starbucks brownies which I took for the boys.
- 2 large bakery loaves of garlic bread. I'd hoped for a loaf of sandwich bread to make the boys' school lunches but there weren't any today - just rolls, and Italian bread.
- Starbucks chocolate cookies (6)

Fresh Items
- 2 lb. chunk of cheddar cheese - no expiration date but it looks ok.
- 1 lb. chub of processed ground turkey - no expiration date. I've never used this turkey before always getting the freshly ground but I suppose I can try it with a meat loaf and see how it turns out.
- 3 small baking potatoes, not the most fresh but I'll bake them and smother with sour cream.
- 3 Blueberry Yoplait yogurts with expiration of 9/5. I am not sure how safe these are to eat. I suppose I can eat them but I'm not keen on giving them to the boys. When I buy dairy it is always the day of the code expiration and not after so this worried me a little.

Pantry Items
- 1 lb. spaghetti noodles
- Riceland Long Grain Brown Rice, no expiration date
- Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice, expiration date 4/25/10
- Box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
- Box of no name brand Mac & Cheese
- Old El Paso hard taco shells
- 1 lb. bag white long grain enriched rice
- Small box Ritz crackers, exp. 8/31/10 - every patron gets a treat of cookies or something and this was ours
- Quaker Cinnamon Oatmeal Squares cereal
- Sun Dried Tomato flavor mashed potato mix
- Herbs de Provence mashed potato mix
- Package of Chili seasoning mix

- Dark Red Kidney beans (dented and rusted top, dirty/greasy label)
- Campbell's Chunky Clam Chowder soup
- no label, 2 cans diced carrots
- sweet applesauce, exp. 2/9/09 - this would have been so nice to get because usually the applesauce is unsweetened and I don't think I'm going to use it a year past the coded date
- Dark Chocolate Peanut Spread, exp. 5/28/10
- 5 oz. can Chicken of the Sea tuna
- Rotel diced tomatoes & green chilies
- Sloppy Joe sauce
- Black beans
- 2 cans Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup
- Off brand fruit cocktail
- 24 oz. can of beef stew - we don't eat beef so I redonate this
- individual can of Carnation Instant Breakfast, vanilla flavor

- 46 oz. Indian Summer Apple Juice
- 3 tubs of 2 QT. lemonade drink mix

- 3 bars of hotel bath soap
- Aim toothpaste
- VO5 Shampoo - discontinued scent so there is no matching conditioner

So looking over this list of food items, I figure if this were it, all we had to eat, I'd be able to come up with only a few meals and provided that I could get milk, eggs, and regular bread.

Breakfasts = oatmeal squares cereal, pumpkin muffins, home cooked rice pudding & fruit cocktail

Lunches = Mac & cheese, soup w/cheese and crackers, grilled cheeses if I can get load bread

Dinners = Meat load made with the turkey, carrots and baked potatoes
Tuna helper and spaghetti if I could obtain spaghetti sauce, and noodles
Chili and tacos if I could get more ground turkey

Basically the pantry provided enough food for a week of breakfasts if milk could be obtained.
About half a week of lunches, and again only if a loaf of bread could be obtained.
And one dinner, with supplemental meat needed to create three more meals.

Eyeballing the list of food items I estimate the worth of items to be about $50.00 give or take a few dollars. To be able to use it in order to eat for the week I would have to add about $20.00 to pick up extra meat, bread, eggs, milk, noodles, spaghetti sauce and a few other items for lunches and dinners. That is assuming I can find 99 cent meat deals and includes no fresh fruit or vegetables.

Again, I try to be grateful for whatever food I receive but some of it is not what I would ever purchase on my own and there is a sense of feeling degraded at having to take castoffs and expired items. I just will throw them out - they shouldn't even be given away. Some weeks back I got a package of biscuit mix from 2004!

But anyway, it would be far better if there could be some sort of system that allows a store gift card to be presented for $50.00 so I could pick out items my family actually eats. And would allow for the purchase of necessary fresh food items.

I don't have much experience to go on with food pantries. I imagine they are all strapped across the country right now. Are there ones out there that are better or worse? The folks going to this pantry mostly do not qualify for food stamps but they are certainly unable to feed their families and need assistance. I just wish that assistance was better coordinated for those who fall in the sphere of needing but not being able to receive any true benefits and are forced to accept and make due with these hand outs.

Once, as I left the pantry in the winter, a young woman looked over the groceries she was carrying out and commented, "It's not very much, is it?" I was relieved, because I had been feeling guilty for thinking the same and yet trying to be grateful and thankful at the same time.