I took a morning shift at NEFP (Northeast Emergency food program) today. I’ve been there in the afternoon when you help hand out bags and boxes of food, but I’ve never unpacked or made bags before.

NEFP just received a whole pallet load of boxes from the mail carrier’s food drive this past weekend. I totally forgot to put my little bag of non perishables out by the mailbox for the mail carrier, so I felt a little better that at least I got to help on this side of the deal.

You know, it never crossed my mind how much man power is needed to donate food to people. For instance this mail carrier food drive, you needed people to remember to put out food with their mail, mail carriers to collect it, someone to pack up all the food into boxes, someone to load the boxes on a truck, someone to drive the truck, someone to unload the boxes and someone (which was me this time) to unpack and sort all the stuff people donated from those boxes.

Sometimes it amazes me that anything like this gets done at all.

Anyway, you’d be surprised what kind of stuff people donate. I think they take it as a chance to clean out the old stuff mouldering away in the back of their pantry. I know that I shouldn’t be complaining about donated food, but come on, people, let’s think about what people are more likely to eat!

Kirsten’s top five list of things NOT to donate to emergency food programs:

5. individual packets of hot chocolate (first of all, they get ripped open and powder gets everywhere. Second of all, its pretty difficult to classify individual packets of hot chocolate as “treat” when the other bags are getting like whole bags of potato chips or boxes of cookies)

4. miniature bottles of mustard (please don’t be a cheapo. Just donate the regular sized ones)

3. snack boxes with meat, cheese, and crackers in them (not that people wouldn’t like to eat them, just the poor slobs who have to sort everything into “protein”, “cereal”, “vegetable”, and “fruit” have no idea where to put it)

2. pickled beets (who are we kidding. Guess what gets left on the front porch of the food distribution center after everyone has received their bags of food)

1. apple mint jelly (because face it folks, no one is going to eat that. I would rather pick like dandelion greens and saute it up with soy sauce than eat apple mint jelly if I were pinched for pennies)

The interesting thing about today’s shift was that there were two young brothers working with me down in the basement, sorting. It turns out they are ex LA gang members turning a new leaf here in portland. One of them found a razorblade in a box of donated food. The other one kept saying how he really liked Arizona brand diet green tea (which some kind soul had donated like 6 gallon jugs of).

Not my usual weekend.