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It is really amazing to see how people can come together to help out and support those in need. I remember back in elementary school participating in canned food drives; teachers would encourage students to go home and ask their parents to clean out their pantries in order to donate nonperishable food items to less fortunate and homeless people. Everyone felt great about doing something for someone else and it really was good to get children in the spirit of giving (rather than receiving). These drives also provided a great opportunity for children to learn about people who are less fortunate. I was absolutely flabbergasted to learn, from watching a recent video from Adam Ruins Everything, that canned food drives are actually a very inefficient way to help out those in need. Here’s why:

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More than half of the items that are donated are already expired, and it takes a lot of time and money to sort through thousands of products to ensure people are getting things that are safe to eat. Those thousands of products also need to be shipped to big warehouses to be sorted in the first place, costing further time and money.

Another great point made in the video is that the majority of canned foods are not very healthy; they are either loaded with sodium and/or preservatives and artificial ingredients, and usually do not meet basic nutritional standards. And these problems don’t even account for the fact that given the choice, most people would choose fresh foods over canned. I guess some people may think, even if only subconsciously, well, they’re poor, so at least this is better than nothing. But imagine how much better quality food we could provide if, for every item that would have been donated, a dollar was given instead?

What Food Banks Are In Need Of

If you really want to help and stretch your dollars the furthest, donate cash — yes, straight up cash. Giving money really is the best way to support food banks this holiday season. A lot of food banks work with local farms and farmers and are able to get healthy, fresh produce and other foods for a significant discount, since a significant amount of produce that farmers grow never even sees grocery store shelves because they are considered too ‘ugly’ to sell. These charities are also able to buy food products on a wholesale level, which saves a ton of money. Donating your cash can lead to more economical AND healthy meals for those in need — the choice is yours! Happy Holidays!

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