Friday, November 14, 2014

When the Food Budget Is Tight

One thing I really miss is the AngelFood Ministries program. When I discovered that it had closed as a result of an investigation into allegations of the misappropriation of funds by the family that had originally organized it, I thought back to signs that had been developing over the past year that something was going wrong. The quality and variety of the food in the basic boxes had declined, while more and more fancy foods were appearing in special boxes that could be ordered in addition to the basic box. It did seem like they were running into trouble, but I never expected that it would be someone with their hand in the till.

It also meant that an opportunity for people to get low-cost food went away, and many people who were struggling but not destitute would be looking for some other way to make their food budgets stretch further. And that meant the quandary of whether to turn to the local food pantries.

One of the wonderful things about AngelFood and similar programs was the way that it allowed people to get low-cost food without worrying about whether they met qualification requirements or if they were taking food away from those who were even more needy than themselves. Unlike food pantries and the like, co-operative food buying programs like AngelFood weren't a finite pie being distributed to the needy. Instead, they worked on economies of scale to take everybody's small contributions and bulk-buy at far better price than individual families could hope to get buying retail -- and even made it possible to distribute free boxes to the destitute. As a result, if you were a little better off, your participation actually helped those who were worse off than you because the more people participating, the more money the organization had in their pool and the better deals they could get in their bulk-buying process, so that everybody could get more and better food.

Unfortunately, it appears that the development of new programs to take the place of AngelFood has been slow and spotty, and many places still don't have anybody serving their area. Thus people in those areas have to struggle with the question of whether they should turn to the local food pantries to help stretch a food budget that never seems to cover enough.

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