Feeding donations to charities
Earlier this year I wrote a column about the need to donate food to local charities, particularly after the summer months. Many charities experience increased client demand for food during the summer because families with children who typically get free breakfast and/or lunch at school have a greater need for food donations in the summer. At the same time, organizations that organize food drives during the winter months are not in session in the summer, so food donations decrease.
In response to that column, I received a wonderful message from Ann B'Rells of Schenectady, N.Y.: "It was good of you to feature the problem of hunger in your Oct. 4 column that I read in the Daily Gazette. In this article, you mentioned the problem of hungry children during the summer. I am proud to say that in Schenectady there is a long-standing and very effective program addressing just this issue. The SICM (Schenectady Inner City Mission) summer lunch program uses hundreds of volunteers and gets food from many pantries and other sources. This summer it provided over 22,000 lunches at eight park sites. Also, you might mention that most food pantries will accept direct gifts of food. They often have specific hours during the week that they like donations, so call first. Since this requires a special trip, perhaps a few neighbors might like to get together on this. And don't forget the wonderful postal employees who several times a year pick up food for the food banks - they already lift tons a day of mail, so this is a really special gift to give."
Most of us live near charities like the one Ann describes and may not even be aware of their feeding programs. Most of these community charities are run by volunteers and have no resources to advertise their efforts. They rely on local civic organizations and places of worship to raise awareness and solicit support of their programs. As Ann mentions, they are generally very happy to accept food donations from individuals all year long.
If you are wondering how to go about finding a local charity that needs your food donations, try calling a local place of worship or a local school to ask who they donate their food to during annual food drives. You can also go to a search engine online and enter the name of your city or suburb, followed by the term "food pantry." You may find a Web site for the charity with specific information listing their hours and the types of food they need.
Most charities need nonperishable food items. Fortunately for smart shoppers, this is the time of year to find many grocery coupons in the Sunday circulars for canned vegetables, soups, stews, canned meats, hot cereals, canned milk and many other nutritious items needed by charities. Six years ago I began a simple experiment to see how many items I could buy for my local charity with my grocery coupons. In the first week, I was able to buy $60 worth of charity items for only $15. That surprised me so much that I decided to make a game of it, buying charity items every week with coupons. My savings averaged 75 percent each week.
After six weeks of consistent results, I began to teach friends how to do it. Because they did not understand how to combine sale prices with grocery coupons, I created the list of the best charity items at our store each week. I would print the lists, attach the necessary grocery coupons, and deliver them in an envelope to several women each week. After eight weeks, we had purchased almost $1800 worth of groceries for 75 percent off the regular price.
We called our effort "Cut Out Hunger." Today I simply put those lists on my Web site - I no longer deliver coupons to shoppers' homes! We realized that if every home in our community bought and donated one item a week, we would flood our charity with food donations and they would have more than enough food to meet their clients' needs.
It's a very fun game. More importantly, it makes a real difference in the lives of people who live in your own backyard. If you donate to a charity near you, please send me an e-mail to let me know how much you can save on your charity bargains! I would love to hear all about it.
Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABC News' "Good Morning America." You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her website at www.couponmom.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.