One Item Many Food Banks Lack
When you struggle financially there are many challenges. One challenge is putting food on your table. As a result, you may need to turn to a food bank.
Food banks have been around since the 1980’s when economic times were especially bad for the entire country with:
- high mortgage rates
- interest rates on loans of 18% and higher
- job losses as companies restructured their own finances
- increased bankruptcies
- and more
There were many reasons why food banks were first set up. Initially they were designed to be a short term solution to your financial needs. A hand up as you restructured your own finances. It was to enable you to become independent again in a short period of time.
For many families that short term assistance has simply not happened. In fact, they have become dependent on food banks as their main grocery store. You can read more on how food bank dependency hurts your family.
So, even after 30 years, food banks are still here and the need for them keeps increasing. For many of the same reasons they were first set up, people struggle financially to put food on the table.
However, even after 30 years of operation, many food banks still continue to lack this one item.
Canned Food Items
Many food items available at food banks are non perishable. This means that the bulk of the food is in cans. Whether it be canned:
- brown beans
- pasta sauce
- and more
Now, don’t get me wrong. Canned food items themselves are not the problem. The problem is whether the person, who cannot afford to buy groceries, has a way to open the can.
The Can Opening Dilemma
Repeatedly at Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs we hear about this dilemma. In fact, just last week we got a desperate call from a young man in this situation.
At first, he asked me if there were any organizations who deliver hot meals for free. As it was a Sunday, I had to inform him that no, in our region, there is not such a service. During the week in the winter, the local Out of the Cold program might. But there is no Sunday availability of even that service.
Upon further questioning, it was determined that he resides in a motel. Which as discussed in an earlier article is actually borderline homelessness.
Our conversation revealed that he has no stove to cook with. He did have the following:
- a microwave
- frozen hash browns
- a couple of dinner rolls
- can of brown beans
Although not the best meal items for the day, it would be something. He quickly pointed out that the hash browns in the microwave are completely gross and disgusting—no matter how hungry he was. Obviously he had attempted that in the past.
So I inquired about the can of brown beans. He said he would eat those in a heartbeat—if he had a can opener.
Ahhh, the one item that many food banks lack!
Food Banks Need To Ask That Question
Many items are now available in tetra packs or with peel off lids. Food banks need to make more effort to request those type of packaged food items. It would also be good if food banks requested the donations of these 2 most common type of can openers.
- Hole punch can opener
- Turn knob can opener that removes the entire lid
The additional thing that food bank screening processes need to include is the question,
“Do you own a can opener?”
A simple question. But depending on the answer, it can mean so much as to what food items a person should be given.
- If you don’t have a hole punch can opener, giving a glass of juice to your child is not possible.
- When you don’t have a can opener to remove the lid, even eating cold brown beans isn’t an option.
If food banks were to ask that simple question, “Do you own a can opener?”, depending on the answer, food that the person can actually eat can be handed out. For instance, if the person does not own a hole punch can opener, give that person tetra pack juice containers. Thus EMPOWERING the person towards a HOPE and a FUTURE to give their child a glass of juice.
Or, if they don’t own a turn knob can opener to remove lids, offer the client food items with pull tab lids. Even some canned meats have this feature.
Simple Solutions To Huge Problems
There are ways around the problem of not having a can opener.
- Tetra pack food items such as juice, soup broth
- Glass or plastic bottled items with screw top lids
- Pull tab lids
- Foil or plastic lids such as on fruit cups
- Paper packages such as soup mixes, not in cans
- or, better yet, donate both types of can openers!
There are simple solutions to this problem of not owning a can opener. Every year, Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs hands out dozens of can openers. We continue to hear stories of how a hole punch can opener is going to make it possible to give a child a glass of juice. Or the near homeless person can eat a cold can of brown beans. Because although they may not have a stove, they can now finally open the can.
What Can You Do?
If you are a food bank client and you don’t own one or both of these type of can openers, let them know! Yes, you are asking for their assistance, but make sure the assistance being provided is something you can use. If you can’t get into the canned items to either eat or drink, you are still left sitting there hungry.
So, talk to food bank staff. Let them know. For many of them, it is simply something they had not thought about. The dilemma of how you are going to open the can.
If you are a food bank donor, ask yourself, “If I didn’t own a can opener, could I open this?”
As a food bank donor, donate more items that don’t require a can opener. Or, donate a bunch of can openers instead or in addition to your food item donations.
Make sure that organizations such as Free Stuff 4 Daily Needs are also in supply of can openers.
Together, as a community, we can help overcome this one item that many food banks lack.
The Young Man Update
Although we were unable to help him that particular Sunday, I did point out to him that he still did have a few dinner rolls to eat. And yes, although gross, he could always try the hashbrowns in the microwave again.
But the next day, we drove to the next town where he was staying and equipped him with the following items:
- hole punch can opner
- can opener to remove lids
- slow cooker
- vegetables/rice steamer small kitchen appliance
Not only can he now open the can of brown beans, he has other methods of cooking available to him too.
How can you help?