Food Donations? Hold the PICKLES!

by Leah McGrath
Corporate Supermarket Dietitian (Ingles)

Nov 13, 2014

Recently I was asked to judge a chili and cornbread cooking contest at Swannanoa United Methodist Church, a small, modest church in the Swannanoa Valley just off of Highway 70 and about 2 miles from Ingles corporate offices and distribution center. Their former minister proudly escorted me upstairs to the Sanctuary to see their stained glass windows designed by an Asheville artist.

The area around the church has been depressed since the Beacon blanket plant across the street closed in 2002. In 2003 an arsonist’s work resulted in the plant structure being burnt to the ground.

Each Wednesday, Swannanoa United Methodist church, in cooperation with other local churches and volunteers hosts and serves a Welcome Table for the community providing a free, hot, luncheon meal for those in need. Typically they serve 75-125 people and rely on donations and food from Manna Food Bank to make the meals. As fellow judge and Welcome Table volunteer Jackie Kitchen pointed out, “Sometimes this is the only hot meal these people get all week.”

We did our judging for the contest in the kitchen seated at colorfully painted stools. As I glanced around the room I saw the shelves of canned and jarred products lining the opposite wall. Chuck Werle, one of the volunteers, pointed out that these donated supplies are used to make the meals.

I couldn’t help but notice two shelves full of black olives in all different sized jars from industrial sized to small jars and another shelf full of all sorts of pickles. As a dietitian my first thought was, “What the heck will they ever do with all those olives and pickles?” So this is what prompted me to write this blog.

When you are donating to food banks and for food drives please “Hold the pickles”…and the olives. Make sure your donations can help these caring and dedicated volunteers prepare healthy and nutritious meals. Please don’t donate items that you don’t want just to clean out your pantry.

donationsHere are some tips:
1. Check with the food bank/pantry or shelter and find out what they need most. Do not donate perishable items without checking first.
2. Don’t donate items in glass jars as they can break.
3. Items that are usually always welcome are: canned proteins (meat, fish, chicken), hearty canned stews, nut butters in plastic jars, canned vegetables and fruits, enriched white rice or brown rice, beans, coffee, tea bags, 100% juice.

It was very inspirational to see what this modest church with a small congregation comprised of many senior citizens was doing to help their community and their friends and neighbors. It was a good reminder that even the smallest church can help those in need.

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