Howdy Folks! I hope everyone was able to get out and vote yesterday!
Last week I followed some carrots to the Waysmeet Food Pantry from the indoor farmers market in Exeter and got a tour of the pantry. This week I was able to speak with some of the individuals who often visit and largely depend on the pantry as their main source of food. On days when the food pantry is open (Tuesday 4-5:30 and Friday 12-2), families and individuals (who together speak 6 different languages) from ten different towns on the seacoast sign in and receive a random lottery number from a bingo cage. They then head to the main community room in Waysmeet where they are able to have a snack or meal for free. Once their number is called, they may go downstairs to the pantry to gather any goods they need.
Currently there are 80 individuals who frequent the pantry. Most of those individuals have families, meaning around 450 people are fed by the food donated to Waysmeet. This week I was able to speak with a couple of regulars of the pantry to hear how it has impacted their lives. Both individuals appreciated the fresh vegetables and agreed that they would not be eating meat without the pantry. Because of my interest in food waste and waste in general, I posed the question: “if there was a discounted vegetable and fruit pile at a grocery store based on appearance of the food, would you buy it?” Both individuals said yes and were not concerned about the appearance of the food they bought. Maybe this could be implemented at farmers markets too to reduce food waste on farms!
Every week grocery stores, bakeries, and farmers markets donate food to Waysmeet, and by the end of the week the majority of that food is gone. Larry Brickner-Wood mentioned that most non-perishables and fresh foods are usually gone after the pantry closes, “but things like potatoes, apples, and meat that [they] sometimes have an abundance of, are rotated.”
While getting a tour of the pantry, Brickner-Wood stated that “society isn’t used to donating fresh goods and often think of canned goods when donating to food pantries” when in reality, there is an abundance of fresh food that is either thrown out or wasted that could be donated to people who cannot afford to buy such items. In addition to stereotyped donation foods, people also tend to think that the winter holidays are the main time that food pantries need food.
Food pantries absolutely need food around the holidays, and in Waysmeets case, they need even more donations because of the holiday food basket donations they create. This past Thanksgiving Waysmeet created around 600 food baskets (each with a $100 value) that reached ~2,500 people. That being said, during the time of year when holidays aren’t present, food pantries are often forgotten. Brickner-Wood said it’s harder to get large donations after the winter holidays, which can make their Earth Day food basket donations difficult to produce.
Now to finally wrap up my follow-the-carrots posts… While speaking with one of the individuals who frequents Waysmeet, I asked how he used the carrots from the pantry last week. At the time it was snowing out and everyone was all bundled up. After sharing how he wouldn’t be able to eat beef without the pantry, he looked me straight in the eyes with a warm smile and softly said “beef stew.”
So! My challenge to you this week is to think about how you might reduce your waste through donations. If you have a garden in the summer do you produce so much that you can’t eat it all? Have you ever made so much food that you feel as if you can’t finish it before it goes bad? Need to cook something before an ingredient goes bad? It doesn’t have to be a food pantry donation. Share with your neighbors, share with your co-workers, share with your friends; create community!
For more information on The Waysmeet Cornucopia Food Pantry, please visit: http://www.cornucopia.unh.edu/
Photos courtesy of: Waysmeet Cornucopia Food Pantry