Holiday Food Drives: Charities need cash, not cans

It’s that time of year again, the time when well-meaning business and community members organize holiday food drives for the needy. Churches, schools, and employers put out large boxes to be filled with canned goods to send to the less fortunate. It’s a noble idea and donating to the poor makes everyone feel good about themselves. The problem is, it’s a hassle for charities to deal with piles of cans, and it’s economically wasteful.

When charities and food banks receive thousands of cans of random food items like pie filling and green beans, the food needs to be hauled and sorted. They are then faced with the task of organizing and storing the cans for when they can be fit into the food distribution schedule – a logistical nightmare. It’s a lot of work and a big hassle for the already overtaxed volunteers.

A much more effective method of helping the hungry is to donate money instead of cans. Charities buy food as part of their day to day business and know how to buy it for pennies on the dollar of retail prices. The money individuals spend on buying food could stretch many times further by simply letting the charity pool that money and buy in bulk.  They can also purchase what they need, when they need it, rather than receiving a random assortment of food — some of which they might already have too much of or may not meet their nutritional standards.

While no charity will turn away a box of food, what they really need to help the less fortunate effectively is money. Find a local charity that you respect and trust, and let them use the money to buy food for a fraction of the retail price. They know what they need, and have much better uses of their time than sorting through thousands of random cans of food. Feel good in knowing your donation is going as far as possible, and kick the cans.

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