Monday, November 19, 2012

The Year of No Christmas

I want to talk about food banks.

This year, my siblings decided they didn't want to exchange Christmas gifts.  They figured they had everything they needed, and they didn't want any more stuff.  Well, by the time they told me this I'd already decided that I was going to ask my family to make donations to local food banks rather than giving me gifts.

So here's what I pitched: why don't we exhange non-perishables on Christmas morning?  That way we still get to carry out our traditions of gathering around the tree and showing that we were thinking of one another, but in the end we will donate everything to food banks.

Would you believe that everyone was on board except my mother?  She's supposed to be the adult (not that we "kids" aren't all adults too), but you'd think she'd be mature and proud of her children.  Nope.  She's disappointed.  She's complaining that we're not celebrating Christmas properly.

Too bad.

People in this city NEED food.  My family doesn't NEED knick-knacks and Christmas crap.  Mom, I love you, but get real.  (I'm going to get some angry be-nice-to-your-mother emails, aren't I?)

I've got food banks on the brain, so I've been doing a lot of research into local organizations and I want to share some info with you.  Let's start with what to give, shall we?  If you're with me and you want to GIVE this holiday season (or any season), here are some suggested food donations from a Toronto organization called North York Harvest Food Bank:

Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world and people’s food needs are just as diverse. Think about variety when you donate and consider giving food that you enjoy eating at home. Below are some suggested food giving ideas.

Food ideas:

  • Grains – rice (white and brown), flour & whole grains (wheat, barley, bulgur), quinoa, pasta
  • Canned fish and meat – salmon, tuna, sardines, corned beef, chicken and other non-pork products
  • Canned or dried beans – chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils
  • Cooking oil – canola oil, olive oil
  • Canned fruit – peaches, pears, pineapple (packed in juice and water instead of syrup)
  • Canned vegetables – corn, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, water chestnuts, cabbage, sweet potato
  • Fruit juice – 100% juice
  • Cereals – High fibre, whole grain or multi-grain cereals, oatmeal
  • Healthy snacks and spreads – peanut butter, almond butter, unsalted nuts, low fat popcorn, low fat granola bars or cereal bars, crackers, cookies (arrowroot, digestive, oatmeal)
  • Baby products – formula, infant cereals, baby food, diapers
  • Canned or powdered milk
  • Spices and seasonings – turmeric, mustard seed, chilli powder, curry paste, sauces and marinades

The point I particularly love and live by is "consider giving food that you enjoy eating at home."  I buy for food banks while I'm doing my personal grocery shopping.  Basically, I do a "one for me, one for you" sort of thing.

I think one huge gap that prevents a lot of people from donating to food banks and other organizations is a belief that the people accessing these resources are somehow... "other."  They're different.  They're poor.  And why are they poor?  Because they're LAZY.  If they'd only get off their asses and get a goddamn JOB, then they wouldn't be asking for a handout, now would they?

I've heard stats about how many people carry these specific beliefs, and they're staggering.

Today, I might not need to access a food banks... well, okay, I'm not be the best example since I already live below the poverty line... so let's use YOU as an example.  Today YOU might not need to access a food bank, but unless you've got psychic insights you can't be entirely sure what your life will look like a year from now.  And, a year from now, if you were in a situation where you couldn't afford to feed yourself or your children, your elderly parents, other dependents, what would you hope for?

Hunger Statistics from Daily Bread Food Bank, Toronto:

I remember being a kid.  Barely.  But it's still there.  And one thing I remember very specifically was the shabbiness of my school lunches compared with those of my classmates.  Maybe all kids feel that way, but I know first-hand that hungry kids are desperately jealous of their well-fed friends.  That's part of my lived experience.  And that's why I like to donate nourishing foods that kids would be excited to bring to school.

Get thinking.  Get excited.  I am.

This Christmas is going to be GREAT, regardless of what my mother says.

For a closer look at the face of hunger in Toronto, I highly recommend the Who's Hungry Report 2012:

If you want to find out about hunger in your area and how you can help, do a quick google search.

Do it now.


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