I had an interesting exchange at our church’s food bank today. Of the foods we intended to drop off, we included several boxes of cereal that were a part of our “stash” as we like to call it. Yes, it would be safe to call my wife an “extreme couponer” (not the shelf-clearing kind . . . that’s just rude) and she’s gotten so good at it that we’ve built up quite a little stockpile of items; sauces & condiments, chips & chilies, soaps & shampoos, etc. Our stash!
Well, after the wake-up call the other day (Stepping Away From the Self-Righteous Abyss) I felt obliged to put our stash where my mouth (or, at least, my keyboard) is; and that included these several boxes of cereal. However, what we had done was remove the UPC code from the bottom of some of these boxes to be included in a rebate towards future purchases. (See, that’s how extreme couponing works!) As it turns out, the kind volunteers at the food bank said they wouldn’t be able to take the boxes because the people who use the food bank “won’t take it because they think it’s been opened.”
Okay, fair enough. Honestly, that was a concern we had before even going in but we thought we’d at least try. It was the next comment that actually caught us out of the blue.
“You’d be surprised at what we end up throwing out around here.”
Really? A food bank has food that actually goes to waste? That people actually don’t want?
That opened up a whole Pandora’s Box of questions swirling around my overactive imagination: Most obviously, “why?”
My trusting/hopeful self would then ask, “Could the food bank, like any other store, have food that spoils or goes past expiration date?”
Well sure, it’s possible.
My cynical/jaded self would then ask, “Has our society developed such an entitlement attitude that there is even free food that is not good enough for those impoverished to the point they find themselves with no other means of providing for their family?”
I’ve been on this earth long enough—and worked in the public sector long enough—that I have a definite opinion on the subject. I would like to think I’m wrong. But I can’t escape the thought that this gentleman wouldn’t have made that comment to me about, say, fresh produce or other perishables as he was handing me back my box of “opened” cereal. Was that just a hint of frustration bubbling underneath the words he spoke?
Again, I’d like to think I’m wrong, but right or wrong there’s something I think we, as a society, as a culture, as Americans—born into the top 2% of all the world’s wealth, whether we feel “rich” or not—need to see. Something we need to understand . . .
Other people don’t live like us. Other people don’t have a sense of entitlement that we do. They would love to have food, ANY food. Yet there are people in the world, GENERATIONS of people, who live like this . . .
I would like to think that, like any other “store”, the food bank occasionally does have food that spoils or goes past expiration date. But even that seems far-fetched given the amount of relative poverty I know is in this area I live; the amount of families, kids that miss meals or that thank God for the public school lunch program so they can have at least one healthy meal today.
I would like to listen to my trusting/hopeful side. I would like to think the best of people. I really would.
I just know too many of them . . .
Including myself . . .