Economics with local food bank

A DAY IN THE LIFE – The Wood Buffalo Food Bank

By THERESA WELLS, Connect Weekly

A delivery van for The Organic Box sits parked outside of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank on Sunday evening. Since February 2015, the partnership between the organic grocery service and social profit organization has helped residents receive donated fresh food. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly.

A delivery van for The Organic Box sits parked outside of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank on Sunday evening. Since February 2015, the partnership between the organic grocery service and social profit organization has helped residents receive donated fresh food. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly.

Sixty-eight hampers per week, packed and ready to serve approximately 158 people, forty-four percent of which are children, under the age of 18. It is a startling statistic, and it is why the Wood Buffalo Food Bank exists.
My relationship with the Wood Buffalo Food Bank (WBFB) stretches back several years, as it was one of the first social profit organizations I came into contact with when I began my adventure in community blogging.

I recognized early on how little I truly understood about the role of social profit organizations, which led me to Arianna Johnson, the Executive Director of the WBFB, to learn more. Just a few years later, I am now on the Board of Directors of the WBFB and for one reason: I became passionate about what they do.

I will never forget my first stint as a volunteer in the WBFB warehouse. I was surrounded by boxes, bags and bins of food items – all needing to be sorted and checked for one vitally important factor: expiry dates.

Some of the bags were clearly the result of a cupboard-emptying spree, the kind that happens when the kids come home from school and inform you that there is a food drive tomorrow (which they have known about for weeks, but forgot to tell you) and that they need food to donate. This leads to the cupboard clearing, in which you find yourself dumping five-year old cans of canned tomatoes into a bag destined for the food bank – except that you neglected to notice that crucial expiry date.

Food banks cannot distribute food that is long past the expiration date. They must ensure that any food they provide in hampers is of a standard suitable for consumption, and those long-expired cans of flaky tuna aren’t going to make the grade. When food banks receive this kind of expired food, they must dispose of it – in the dumpster they pay to have emptied. This means your expired food – donated in good faith, but with a lack of knowledge – actually costs them money to dispose.

That was my first lesson in food bank economics, and I have never forgotten it. Along the way, I have learned the importance of intelligent donating – meaning a focus on food with nutritional value and not the ubiquitous box of macaroni and cheese (which provides woefully little in terms of nutrition).

I faced towering mountains of tomato soup cans, while realizing the food bank had no jam to go in hampers, because it seems we all think of certain items when it comes to donating.

Today, years after that first volunteer experience, every single time I enter the warehouse my first instinct is to grab a can from a bag of donations and check the expiry date – because when we know more we can do more, a vital understanding when it comes to the world of social profit organizations like the Wood Buffalo Food Bank.

– Connect Weekly –