October is our church's month to help run the local food pantry. I've gone twice now to volunteer. Mostly I just help people pick out their food and help stock shelves. Spending time there has made me think how blessed Jeremy and I are - we can afford to buy food and buy what we want, for the most part. Now we aren't eating high price items a lot, but we can choose what we want to eat and how we want to eat. It must be really hard if you have to follow a special diet yet are relying on food pantries to help feed yourself or family. While there are some sugar free and gluten free options at the pantry, most of the foods aren't either. Also, there is a lot of meat given to the families, which I'm sure they enjoy. I, on the other hand, wouldn't be able to take a lot of the food given since I don't eat meat (except fish). I am so lucky that I can choose to follow this semi-vegetarian diet and have the means to do so.
I was pleased to see all the fresh fruits and vegetables at the pantry. Some local grocery stores and farmers donate some of their bruised or almost-too-old to sell items. Also, the families can take "as much as they can use" of these items! I thought this was awesome, because too often the foods donated to pantries are overly sugary/fatty/full of sodium. Some of the people bypassed the table completely, but I was pleased to see so many people taking advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables by loading up and talking about what they were going to make with the giant zucchinis/tomatoes/etc.
The pantry also receives day old desserts such as cakes, pastries, pies, etc. I have found this is completely typical from the work I've done at other pantries and homeless shelters. In Waco, we were always getting tons of cake, but little in the way of nutritious foods. I'm glad there is a nice balance here. Both times I've been at the pantry here there have been some lemon meringue pies. I was surprised to see them go towards the end of the day. I LOVE lemon meringue - I'd totally pick that over cake or pastries any day.