Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Field Trip

The Food Bank Director and I went to the Alameda County Community Food Bank last week. I'd never been there and I wanted to see it. It's a huge place, with a walk-in freezer almost the size of our house (part of which you can see in the upper left corner of the photo below), and a small section set up with shelves where we "shop" that is probably 30 x 40 feet, minuscule in relation to the size of the whole warehouse. There's a desk where you sign in and they give you a cart, Then you walk up and down the aisles until you have everything you can get. The weight of your stuff is recorded for billing purposes and you go out and pack your truck or van and leave.

The difference between our food bank and the ACCFB is kind of like the difference between a mom-and-pop grocery store and a grocery distributor. We get our stuff there and then the clients come to us to get their stuff. We got ten cases of tomato sauce, ten of diced tomatoes, ten of cranberry sauce (for next November), and five of pork and beans. We also got 100 pounds of sweet potatoes, 100 pounds of carrot stubs, and 50 pounds of onions. The ACCFB charges by the pound for the canned goods, and the produce is free. Unlike a grocery distributor, the choices are limited, as are the amounts (sometimes). You get what they have when they have it because you don't know when they will have it again. We have a lot of tomato products because that's pretty much all the ACCFB has had for several months, but come September they may not have any so we should get it now - and do.

All cans, jars, and packaged food like crackers and cereal have codes printed on them which mean various things. The date printed on the can is often a "best by" date (sometimes it is a packing date). After the "best by" date has passed, the food inside the can is generally good for up to 24 months (depending on what's inside the can), though the nutritional content may be compromised (particularly in the case of vitamins). When we get cans and packages donated by the community, we look at each one to see if it's worth putting up on the table for packing. We all throw stuff out if it's more than two years old, and sometimes before that if the packaging looks iffy or (obviously) of the can is bulging or leaking. The oldest can we've received since I've been at the food bank had a "best by" date of June 1995. I think it came from someone who brought us the contents of their parent's kitchen when the parent died or moved into supportive housing. We all wondered at the age of the can and then someone pitched it in the trash.

Carrying all these cans around reinforces my weight training - and my need for weight training!

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