Fresno is blessed with many people of good will who want to help hungry people. When their churches or places of work have food drives or gather cash donations, they give what they can. Some employers and churches favor giving food donations; others emphasize cash donations. Which kind of giving provides better nutrition for the people who receive the food? Which one enables a person to give the most food?
Food banks and pantries often receive large quantities of food that they in turn give to recipients. In many cases, the hungry person who receives the food needs proteins or fresh fruit but gets carbohydrates; because that is what the charity got. One pantry received six pallets of Cheerios when it already had other carbohydrates such as day old bread, pasta and macaroni and cheese. Naturally, it stuffed a box of Cheerios in all its family bags. Affordable high fat proteins like bologna also went into the bags. If its donors had given more cash, it could have purchased higher quality, lean protein like canned tuna. Another charity gets an annual donation of 18,000 pounds of hot dogs, which, like bologna, are high in fat. Its clients eat lots of hot dogs in the weeks following the donation and months later as well, because the charity freezes some of the hot dogs. If this agency could get more cash donations, it could buy lean chicken for its recipients instead of relying on high fat hot dogs. And it could buy much more food than it would get from a food drive. In the case of the donated hotdogs and Cheerios, hungry people got what the agency received and not necessarily what they needed.
Some pantries provide lists of foods that their clients need to their donors, who may be church members, other churches, food retailers or food manufacturers. Good quality ground beef is obtained by one agency this way. One church provides the foods that another church requests for its pantry. Managing food donations this way can help get the food people actually need.
But a more effective way to match the food given away to the needs of the recipients is for the relief food agency to have enough money to buy the foods people need. The Community Food Bank buys 70% of the food its clients need with cash donations from individuals and businesses. Church pantries typically get cash donations from their congregations. Some of them get donations from businesses; others get grants. One pantry gets money from the church thrift shop. Pantries and charities also get cash donations from churches that take collections for them. With these funds, these agencies can buy food on sale at discount grocers and dollar stores. They can buy food for about one fourth the cost that a consumer would pay. Your cash donation will actually buy about four times as much food as you would, if you bought food for a food drive.
Fresno Hunger Count asked people which foods they needed and has made that information available to relief food agencies. If these agencies can raise enough money, they can buy the foods their clients they need; and they can buy a lot more food per dollar than and individuals can. Cash donations enable these organizations to maximize the nutrition they deliver to the hungry. Please give as much cash as you can to the food bank, charity or pantry of your choice.