When Margo Wynhofen of Grimsby, Ontario read about our party in the Globe & Mail, she tried to host her own party only to have her local food bank tell her they couldn’t accept donations of perishable food. Because this seems to be a common problem–it happened to a group wanting to start a party in Nanaimo, British Columbia–I’m sharing my answer to her with you.
You’ve run into a common problem. When we first started out party in Toronto our hampers were distributed through Second Harvest which collected perishable food from restaurants, film shoots, caterers, etc. When we moved to Victoria I had to hunt around, but luckily our local Salvation Army was totally on board for us and has been wonderful about bringing bigger and bigger trucks to accommodate us.
It might be worth a try to send a link to our blog to your local Food Bank. Once they better understand what you’re trying to do they might be more willing to accommodate you. Food banks usually don’t have storage facilities for perishable food so their concern is understandable: they don’t want to suddenly find themselves with a mass of thawing turkeys or set a precedent for people dropping off rotting produce. You’d want to stress to them that this needn’t be an ongoing commitment on their part, and that you will arrange your party time so that food could move directly from your house to their distribution point without delay.
There are also usually other groups you can approach. Have you tried your local Salvation Army? Churches, women’s shelters and transition houses have contact with women trying to reestablish themselves and their families on shoestring budgets. Some years we have set aside hampers for a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder support group aiding women trying to quit drugs.
The main thing is to be flexible and tailor your party to what you can accomplish in your community. Once you make a start with a charity and they see that you are responsible and FoodSafe things will get much, much easier. Our first year with the Salvation Army I know they were grateful for our contribution, but mentioned they’d check and repackage it themselves later. This year, we were the kick-off event for their whole Christmas food drive. We’ve built trust over the years; they know we check every mandarin, make sure turkeys are kept in plastic bags so there’s no chance of contamination, etc.
Please keep us posted, Margo. And can we print your letter and my reply on our blog? Many people will find themselves in the same dilemma!