WASHINGTON – Apparently, the families who donate food to the South County Assistance Network do not enjoy the taste of hot peppers.
Bob Hobbs, president of the Lothian organization that assembles food packages for hungry families in Maryland, said he gets jars of hot peppers every year, along with olives, pickles, cartons of spices, candy bars and vans full of day-old bread.
Hobbs will not include those items in food packages. All the “funky” donations end up in a box at the end of the counter for families looking for specific items.
“That’s good and that’s bad,” Hobbs said of the donations. “We don’t like to get the rusty stuff people found in the back of their pantry.”
But every year, food pantries receive dented or expired canned goods that do them no good, said Emily Yingling, a volunteer at the Thurmont Food Bank, which served more than 75 families in October.
“They take the opportunity to clean out the pantry,” Yingling said. “We usually won’t take that stuff.”
Yingling said dented cans are always on the borderline between usable and not, but anything expired has to be “thrown in the trash.”
Yingling also receives a lot of baby food from local residents and a lot of venison. Even though the deer meat is unusual, she said, it keeps well and is appreciated.
“When people go deer hunting, they’ll call to see if we’ll take the leftover meat,” she said. Monetary donations are also common, she said.
Sister Carol Czyzewski of St. Anthony’s parish in Emmitsburg said a family once donated a cardboard box full of organic food, leaving the volunteers clueless as to how to prepare it.
“People just didn’t know what it was or what to do with it,” she said. “They weren’t sure if it was soy or what it was at all.”
All the volunteers agreed that foods like cereal, pasta, canned goods, soup and pancake mix are most appreciated by pantries like theirs.
Families that do not know what to give should consider donating money, Yingling said. It allows volunteers to purchase whatever they need. If donors are still looking for something different to give, volunteers suggested household cleaners and paper goods.
Czyzewski said people who donate exotic items often want to feel as though they are making a difference by buying the one food that they believe nobody else will think of. She said there is a reason no one else will think of it — because no one wants it.
“It’s better to stick to the standards of soup, juices and peanut butter,” Czyzewski said.