Sat. Apr 13th, 2024
Artwork by: Bob Gillespie,

By: Grainne Rhuad

The world is being occupied.  Have you noticed?  Since the revolution began in Tunisia it’s been all over the news.  One riot after another fueled by dissatisfied people.  Contrary to what was promised by 1960’s icon Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution is in fact being televised.

The way in which it is being televised however is misleading.  Watching events unfold in the middle east, the Mediterranean, Europe and most recently in the U.S. it is becoming clear that the mainstream broadcast media has no intention of covering what is really happening on the ground.  It may be due to the fact that what is happening is as diverse as the people showing up to protest.

There are just now many ways in which to show support to those taking to the streets.  One of the biggest disparities that have occurred to me is the separation between those who show up for “Occupy this or that” and those who truly cannot afford to take the time off to protest.

People have families to support still.  It’s one of the reasons that the 99% are so upset.  The inability to provide for themselves and their dependants.  It’s not a time to be flippant with whatever work you happen to have.

The occupy movement has been smallish in the community I live in.  The largest turnout was somewhere around 50 and I found myself uninspired by the spectacle.  It’s not surprising that it is receiving next to no coverage because as you walk up to people to talk to them about their “occupation” they avoid eye contact.

What did get me inspired was an invitation I received from someone on Facebook to join the “Occupy Your Local Food Bank”.   This was something solid and concrete I could get behind.  Also it is something I believe in wholeheartedly.  Feeding the hungry and doing it on a local level.

What I learned when preparing for this event last Saturday was at the same time sad and galvanizing. It turned out to not be as easy as one might think to find a food pantry to donate to.

While just like many other communities, we have canned food drives around the holidays and sponsored by the Boy Scouts, local schools and stores. These drives aim to collect and distribute right away.  They usually partner with a particular agency like Untied Way or Church to distribute to a list of people already decided upon.  We do not have an actual pantry that is set up for those in need to drop into and pick up items.

The closest thing we have to this is the Salvation Army, which runs a food program wherein it shares hot cooked meals and will accept some canned goods to distribute from time to time.  Another agency which came close was Community Action Agency which mostly distributes vouchers for food rather than actual food.

What has been happening over the past several years is the community has found it for some reason more effective to accept cash donations and use that cash to provide coupons and vouchers for things like food or overnight hotel stays for homeless families.  This is not a bad thing; it’s just how things have been done.

However with the changing society we live in, cash donations are getting harder and harder to make.  People very often don’t have extra cash to give, however they may find it easier to pick up an extra can of soup or jar of peanut butter.  What is essential in these changing times is finding a way to make it easy for people to share.

For this we need easy and safe drop off points for food banks.  So here are some tips I came up with after my frustrating weekend.

  1. Find out if your community has an already established food bank.  Sounds simple enough but I am embarrassed to admit I did not know we didn’t have one.
  2. Visit or call the Boy Scouts of America office. Every year the Boy Scouts of America participates in “Scouting for Food”.  They know how to organize a food drive and they know who to donate to.  They are also very friendly and helpful.
  3. Identify your area’s Interfaith Council.  Most areas have an Interfaith Council that helps churches of all faiths, mosques and synagogue to coordinate how to serve the community and educate on the similarities and differences of their religions.  These Interfaith Councils also know which churches are organizing to help with food, clothing and shelter and when. Also, if you are already a member of a church put a call in to your leadership, if they don’t know how to donate food, this is something that can and probably should be organized.
  4. When in doubt contact the Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army has been feeding and clothing the poor and homeless since before the turn of the 20th century in America.  It is their ideal to care for the personal needs of people before they can think about anything spiritual.  They are good at this and will know where to direct you.
  5. If you live in a small community that does not have any of the above organize it yourself.  Usually a school or a small store or post office in rural communities will allow you to set up a food collection area.  All that is needed is a place to collect things and word of mouth and the hungry will find you.

What is most important to the 99% is the ability to live a certain quality of life.  I don’t think anyone who is protesting expects to be a Rockefeller, what they do expect is to not have to worry about food, housing and medical care.  To have the ability to watch their children grow and go to college.

One thing we can all help with is making sure the basic needs of one another are met.  We can make sure our neighbors are fed and nourished.  As Pete Seeger sang, “If we could consider each other, a neighbor a friend or a brother, it could be a wonderful wonderful world, it could be a wonderful world.”

 To see  more artwork by Bob Gillespie visit his site @

By Grainne

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5 thoughts on “Occupy Your Local Food Bank”
  1. Thank you Grainne, for this informative post on food banks. Different states, and even different demographic areas of state locations, do things differently. Most of the churches in my area have an open door policy concerning food donations. If you’re not sure where to go, you can always appeal to one of the churches and they will either accept your gift and send it to an existing food bank or direct as to where to go.

    What perturbs me about all charitable organizations is that the more successful ones end up receiving the attention of federal agencies and accept a matching funds contract. This sounds good on the surface, but the contract often requires a lot of personal and family information, such as number of people in household, household address, average income and state identification. Once the federal subsidy program is involved, participants in the food stamp program generally receive stricter rations, fewer choices, are limited in the number of times they can visit a food bank and are able to be tracked by the state. It’s designed to make the federal subsidy look good, while with the hand hidden behind the back, they govern how much generosity a community is allowed to give to its less privileged neighbors.

    Beware of federally subsidized charities. Your donations are then under control by the same federal entities that have ravaged the welfare program, nurtured ineffective foster care, exploited low income housing and left adequate health care in shambles. If you are unsure of the policies of your local food bank, go directly to the Occupiers of your town and find out what you can do. Those who have made commitment for the long term are going to need all the help they can get.

  2. The necessity of food banks is a very grim marker of our society today. Here in Central Alberta we are fortunate that the food banks for both the bigger and smaller communities has attempted to make themselves accessible. The grocery stores have bins that donations can be placed in. In addition they have $10 prepackaged boxes that a person can purchase to place in those bins. This is in addition to the grocery stores donating their older produce and bread products rather than throwing them away.
    It sounds like the American version of the Salvation Army is in line with the Canadian version; they provide emergency relief for those who find themselves victims of harsh economic times, and through their thrift stores attempt to create temporary placements that allow people to make money in order to springboard to something better. There are many organizations similar throughout Canada, it is just a pity that the federal government has a commitment to only supporting those who support the government’s point of view on their moral (or self important borderline unethical)social, religious, and political positions rather than concentrating on the segment of society that these organizations are trying to assist.
    Grainne is quite astute to point out that those who are most in need of taking up the “occupy” cause can not afford to. It seems to be a bit of droll humour that the mainstream media and the soundbite driven Western politicians point out the abhorrant treatment of other countries yet similar, though far less violent, are taknig place in their own backyards.

  3. With one child in four going to bed hungry in America, and one person in five out of work in this country when you add up all of the real statistics, food banks are more important than they ever were.

    One thing you forgot to mention – food banks do a lot of business with homeless shelters this time of year, providing holiday meals (I volunteer at a couple of them every Thanksgiving and Christmas). Every time you donate to a food bank this time of year, you’re doing double-duty both with people who have homes and little food, and with people who have neither.


  4. Thank you for this blog. I come across small local food pantries being stretched to the breaking point (having to consider closing, reducing service, etc.) all the time, and the need is especially dire coming out of the summer donation-dry-spell. If you’re worried about your donation disappearing into the administrative costs of one of the big agencies, put your ear to the ground and find your local food pantry. They will be grateful for the help.

  5. Thanks W- Homeless shelters do partner up with everyone this time of year and it is very easy to give and serve. Almost so easy that it is shameful if one doesn’t. In fact in talking to another downtrodden person yesterday I suggested that they fill their unemployed time doing some of this service. It’s important to give when we are feeling down and have nothing to do and it helps everyone involved. They did and found they liked it more than expected. They also made important connections.

    @ Debbie You are welcome and thank you. Sometimes it’s hard to take the time to find out exactly where to go, sometimes we find ourselves not wanting to go to certain places or make call necessary to share ourselves, but I have never known anyone who was sorry for it after they pushed through their initial discomfort.

    It’s getting colder out and this is going to be a major way to support our people. Both those who are protesting and those who cannot take the time off from work anymore. It’s very easy to pick up an extra box of cereal or mac&cheese.

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