Making a dent in food bank donations

Nationwide, food banks — clearinghouses that distribute food donations to local charitable pantries and emergency shelters — report receiving fewer donations in the form of imperfectly packaged canned and boxed edibles.

It is the down side of a drive in recent years by manufacturers and retailers for greater supply-chain efficiency. Toward that end, many food manufacturers began producing food in quantities more closely tailored to individual retail customers’ needs. That in turn has reduced the amount of food that gets sold to retailers and ultimately returned to the manufacturers.

At the same time, new technology has helped eliminate production errors such as processing canned food without labels or producing an entire order of cereal boxes using upside-down text.

So reports today’s Wall Street Journal (subscribers only). More:

In Phoenix, St. Mary’s Food Bank is seeing about 15% fewer donations over the past year, says Executive Director Terry Shannon. St. Mary’s, which bills itself as the world’s first food bank, was established in 1967 by the late John van Hengel after talking with a poor woman who scavenged for dented canned food in grocery-store dumpsters. A creative character who dabbled in everything from advertising to driving beer trucks, he came up with the idea of having a central location for food-industry waste.

The concept is workable as long as the waste proliferates. But retailers are finding new avenues to sell damaged goods. Some grocery stores are putting dented cans in discount bins rather than sending them to the local food bank. Others are selling product into the so-called gray market where brokers sell unsalable groceries to discount stores, flea markets or “banana box” grocery stores, shops that sell salvage food packaged in old banana boxes.

Food banks of course are always happy to accept your cash donation, or your parish’s steady cash donation.

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