Food banks and pantries give out bags of food that contain more foods like rice and pasta than tuna and peanut butter. The typical bag of food for a family of four has a loaf or two of bread, a box of cereal, a bag of rice, a box of macaroni and cheese, a can of tomatoes and a can of corn. The bag may also have a bag of dry beans, a jar of peanut butter and a small can of tuna. These bags provide a mother and three children eight to thirteen years of age enough food for two days.
The mother cooks the tomatoes and corn with the beans for lunch and dinner and uses the bread to make peanut butter and jelly and tuna sandwiches for lunch and toast for breakfast. Her children eat cereal for breakfast and snacks. Rice and macaroni and cheese accompany the beans for lunch and dinner.
To feed this mother and her children mostly carbohydrates and a few proteins for two days requires constant searching of ads for sales, numerous trips to the food bank and discount grocers, and countless emails and phone calls. Volunteers throughout Fresno and Clovis take time from their families to dedicate 30 to 40 hours a week to run pantries. They develop a good rapport with store managers to get notices of sales and food donations; they recruit volunteers to drive their own cars to pick up food, stock pantry shelves, put food into bags, and hand out the bags to families; and they network with the food bank and other pantries to either receive surplus donated food from them or give them their pantry’s surplus food.
At the center of their activity, of course, is getting the most food for the least money.
Pantry managers buy these foods from grocery outlets, discount grocers and dollar stores when they have sales. They work very hard to purchase food at steeply discounted prices. Eggs, chicken and red meats are too expensive to buy, even when they are on sale. Pantries buy dry beans and peanut butter instead of eggs and chicken; they buy tuna or franks instead of fresh meat.
When we see food bags bulging with bread, rice and cereal and only have dry beans and a small jar of peanut butter, it is because the carbohydrates are cheaper than proteins. Rice, for instance, is almost two times cheaper than dry beans and more than two and a half times cheaper than peanut butter. Determined to buy the most amount of food with the money they have, pantry managers pack plenty of carbohydrates and as many proteins they can afford into their bags. We don’t need to wonder where the proteins are. They’re still on the grocery store shelves.