Friday, January 1, 2010

One Can Every Week - A Challenge

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Many of us have relied on the kindness of strangers at one time or another, in at least some small way. Sometimes, it's something so small that you hardly think of it - like someone opening a door for you. Sometimes it's big enough to make a difference in your day - such as if a stranger speaks up that you left your hat behind as you're getting off the bus. And sometimes, it's something big enough that you have to swallow your pride - something you can't live without - like getting support from a local food bank to put meals on the table.

It may surprise friends and family to know that I've relied on the kindness of strangers in all the ways described above - including going to a food bank. While in college, I lived in a house with about a dozen other people. Although my parents made sure I had everything I needed, and I worked at a local ice cream shop for spending money, not all my roommates had jobs or a source of income, so we all took turns going to the local food bank to help supplement our meals and make sure everyone had enough to eat. It was sometimes humbling, but also made me acutely aware of how many people rely on food banks every week. I'd see the same people there week after week - elderly immigrant couples, young mothers, street kids - and all were especially grateful when there was fresh produce and bread, and plenty to go around. Some weeks, that was the case. But other times, the staff had to ration the food very strictly, because donations were lower (or demand was higher) than usual.

I suspect this is one of those times.

As we start a new year, I challenge my household and yours to be the strangers whose kindness someone can rely on.

The challenge is simple: Give one can of food every week this year to a local food bank.

That's 52 cans, at a cost to you of about $52 a year.

It may sound too simple, or perhaps seem like not enough to make a difference. But if my household can stick to this, that's 52 extra cans of food this year. If I can inspire 2 other households to do the same, that's 156 extra cans. If each of them inspire 2 other households, that's 364 extra cans of food.

Many larger grocery chains have boxes right in their store, making it easy to grab an extra can of soup, chili, green beans or fruit cocktail before you checkout, then drop it off as you leave the store.

If your store doesn't have a drop box, consider buying that extra non-perishable item each week and putting it in a box in your pantry, closet, or basement, then when the box is full drop it off at a food bank or food drive. You can find a foodbank in your area by using the Feeding America Food Bank Locator, or simply searching online for food banks in your city or state.

Although this challenge is 'One Can A Week', food banks accept a wide variety of non-perishable foods. Northwest Harvest recommends selecting shelf-stable food with the lowest saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, white flour), such as:

Whole grain pastas
Brown rice
Tomato products
Canned vegetables
Canned fruit, especially with low sugar (but not artificial sweeteners)
Canned fish or meat
Shelf-stable milk
Beef stew, chili and similar meals with low sugar and saturated fats
Baby formula
Canned milk
Infant cereal
Jars of baby food
Powdered or canned milk

So that's my challenge to Dan & I this year, and to you and your families. One Can, Every Week. Something so small, but with the potential to make someone's life better.

If you take me up on this challenge, please consider commenting on this post to let us know, and please share this on Facebook, to challenge others to give:

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