Coffee BB Date - © 2021 Sue Durant

Food Bank Folly: Donors Unclear On The Concept?

I can’t make up my mind whether this story is the result of some really squirrelly thinking by otherwise-well-intentioned citizens, or a really stupid prank at the expense of the Devon, UK Food Bank – or maybe simply a promo stunt prompted by a freakish happenstance at the donation box…

Out-Dated Donations - © 2021 Sue DurantA few of the ridiculously out-dated donations made just this
past week to the Kingsbridge, Devon, UK Food Bank…

Here’s the deal…

Officials at the Kingsbridge Food Bank in Devon, UK alerted the media after a bag of coffee was found in their donation box – with a best before date of June, 1995! Honest to gosh. They even provided photos. Another donation – a jar of couscous – was dated October 2015. And there have been many more such unusable donations over the years, though the frequnecy with which thy appear seems to have increased recently.

Of course, they can’t distribute those items. But the Food Bank has another problem. The organization has no waste disposal contractor, so they can’t just throw unusable donations out like regular garbage.

“My lovely volunteers usually end up taking them home with them,” to dispose of in their own household garbage, project director Gerrie Messer told the BBC.

Why would someone donate stuff like that?

As proposed at the outset of this post, I see three possible scenarios behind the creepy donation.

I suspect some folks who discover really old food during periodic pantry junk-outs simply don’t think to look at the best before dates. In their virtuous hearts, they think, “It seems a shame to throw this away. It’s still sealed and doesn’t smell ‘off’. I’ll give it to the Food Bank. Somebody will be glad to get it.”

Wrong on all three counts: Stale dated foods should be thrown out, for safety reasons, alone. Just because a food item looks and smells okay, doesn’t mean it IS okay. And the Food Bank is definitely not glad to get it.

Then, there’s the possibility that somebody found the ancient food items in a garage or a basement where they had been forgotten ages ago. And decided to see what would happen if they gave them to the Food Bank. Har, har.

Or… Folks at the Food Bank got tired of dealing with occasional disgusting donations and decided to stage a ‘news’ event to raise awareness of the problem. Why they didn’t do so earlier, only they know. After all, Messer told the BBC, unusable, out-dated donations come in all the time. Maybe the the Kingsbridge crew just hit a breaking point. Suffered a ‘last straw’ event.

Bottom line

Regardless of the source of the nasty donations, or the motivations behind them, the Food Bank’s message has come through loud and clear.

“In date and unopened. That is all we really ask for,” Messer pleads. And I suspect she speaks for all Food Bank Directors everywhere.

Why doesn’t the Food Bank have a waste disposal contractor? That would cost money, and the Food Bank is pledged to use all cash donations to buy food items needed to round out the food packages they dole out to clients. Note to waste disposal contractors: Will somebody please assume the mantle of Good Corporate Citizen and donate waste removal services to the Food Banks? It would be a small thing for you to do, and a huge relief for the Food Banks.

Now, more than  ever…

The COVID19 crisis and the loss of employment for millions of folks around the world has placed unprecedented demand stress on Food Banks everywhere. If you’re in a position to donate to your local Food Bank, please do so. Your donation might just be helping your own friends or neighbours make ends meet. And never forget: you may be the one seeking support from the Food Bank some day. In this crazy world (and I’ll risk quoting a few words from an old song), “Nobody knows what tomorrow may bring…”

~ Maggie J.