When I lived in Raleigh, I was proud to serve as a Social Media Ambassador for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. During my time there, I was able to tour the large warehouse facility they had and learn more about the incredibly efficient operations they have with both incoming and outgoing food donations. They maximize their resources and minimize their product loss.
But the biggest thing I learned was how many people go hungry every night. And I’m not talking about the homeless people on the corner. I’m talking about the regular families that just don’t make enough money to regularly provide food for their families.
This is the land of milk and honey, isn’t it? It’s certainly the land of excess. No child in this country should ever go hungry.
So when I decided to get across the country for a mini-retreat in the hills of Santa Barbara as part of TWIN (Toyota Women’s Influence Network), I was thrilled that Toyota decided our road trip should include a charitable component. In fact, one of the things I love about Toyota is there strong involvement not only in local communities but in large scale programs for the greater good (read my posts on 100 Cars for Good and the Mothers of Invention grants).
Upon arriving in California last week, we were given a detailed agenda about our road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway that included a quick shopping trip and a stop at the Santa Barbara Food Bank. I hopped in a Toyota RAV4 with Christy (@quirkyfusion) and Shell (@shellthings) and we headed out on the road.
We made our way to the what looked like a high tech Target in the seaside town of Oxnard. Toyota graciously provided each of us with a $25 Target gift card and a list of the most requested items from the Santa Barbara Food Bank. We weren’t required to stick to the list so I veered off just a bit.
I wanted to maximize my donation so I pulled out my calculator and added up each product as I shopped. I learned that Target was also contributing $10 towards our cause so I had $35 to spend and verified there was NO food tax in California (at least where I was shopping).
I had a couple of rules about my food selections:
1. I wanted it to be healthy. Healthy foods typically come at a cost but I don’t think that needing food donations should exclude you from trying to eat healthily.
2. I wanted it to be of good quality. Generic food is fine for some things (like pasta) but other times, quality and taste matter, even if you can’t afford it.
3. I wanted at least some of it to be fun. Kids are kids even if they’re hungry.
Not very much for $35, huh?
I picked whole wheat pasta, Ragu spaghetti sauce (there was a special on it), Planter’s All Natural peanut butter, Dinty Moore beef stew, pinto beans and rice (good fiber, protein, and carbs), black tea, and a few kid things. I picked Campbell’s chicken soup in fun shapes like stars, cars, goldfish, and Disney princesses.
But the surprise item?
Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme.
Seems like an odd choice with my three rules above. But I remembered a post I had written last year about my own experience growing up and needing food donations. I recounted how, as a child, we felt no shame. We didn’t know better. But we did get excited at the chance to try foods my mother would never normally buy… like Marshmallow Creme. And it was Jessica Gottlieb (@jessicagottlieb) who remarked that the next time she made a donation, she’d be sure to include a jar.
So that’s my treat to some kid out there to make them fill a little more fortunate than unfortunate.
Once we finished shopping, we took our cart down the cart escalator (told you it was high tech)…
loaded up the RAV4…
and made our way to the Santa Barbara Food Bank.
We filled up two large crates. And while the money didn’t come from my pocket (my total as $34.92), it made me realize that buying my donations, as opposed to donating money, made me feel much more connected to the cause and really allowed me to think about where my money could and would go.
As a result, I’m going to reconnect with food bank efforts in my new hometown and hope to make a difference for the 600,000 hungry Marylanders every week.
Thank you to Toyota and Target and all my fellow TWINs for making me feel proud!
Disclosure: I was selected for participation in the TWIN community through a program with Clever Girls Collective. I did not receive any compensation for writing this post, or payment in exchange for participating. The opinions expressed herein are mine, and do not reflect the views of the Toyota.