Friday, April 3, 2009

Pulling Together To Keep Food Costs Low

People who are having financial difficulty but not yet destitute are often hesitant about approaching food banks and other food assistance programs. Sometimes there's fear of condescension or having to answer embarrassing personal questions about their income, but far more often the thing holding them back is concern that they will be keeping those who are even more needy from getting food.

But would that change if I said there was a program that offered low-cost food without any qualifications save being willing to show up on the appointed day with a basket to pick it up? A program structured in such a way that you never have to worry that the food you receive meant less for the less fortunate, and in fact the more middle-income people participate, the easier it becomes for low-income people to get affordable high-quality food.

It's not a fantasy, and in fact there are two programs of this sort offering food assistance all across the country. Both of them work by pooling the money of tens of thousands of participants to buy food in bulk with minimal packaging (often only the FDA-required nutrition labeling and a bag to protect it from contamination), and distributing it using primarily volunteer labor. Because of the leveraging effect of pooling a large number of payments, the participation of middle-income families really does help make the food more affordable for low-income families. Generally you get about twice as much food for the money compared to what you would pay in a regular grocery store.

The first is Angel Food Ministries, which is a single nationwide organization. The second, SHARE Food, is actually a network of regional organizations, and there is no single Website that covers the entire nation. Here in central Indiana we are served by SHARE Food of Peoria, but you will want to find out the organization that serves your area.

There may also be other, smaller co-operative food-buying programs that serve your area. Whichever one you look into, you can expect to save a significant amount of money and still eat as well, if not better than you have been.

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