We could write you a novel on this topic, but we’re pretty sure you’ll have more fun and understand better if you listen to Cash Man‘s rap:
Let’s take a look at how much of a difference it makes when a pantry operates according to one of these strategies instead of the other:
A Tale of Two Churches
Imagine two churches across the street from one another. Both of them are aware of people in the neighborhood and in their congregation who are suffering from unemployment, low wages, debt, and other problems such that they periodically have trouble getting enough food to eat. So both churches decide to provide such people with help.
Decides to procure food to give to needy families by asking the members of the church to buy food at the store and to bring it with them to the church for the church’s food pantry.
So the members do that, spending $5,000 over the course of a year. They receive no tax benefit for their gifts, so the after-tax cost is $5,000.
For their $5,000, the members are able to buy about 3,500 lbs. of food for the pantry.
The pantry lovingly assembles standardized 50 lb. food boxes.
70 families are given those standardized food boxes. As much as half of the food ends up not being used.
Bottom Line: At a cost of $5,000, Church X has reduced hunger in the community by about 1,750 lbs. = 1,750 meals.
Decides to procure food to give to needy families by asking the members of the church to donate funds onto its account at the Food Bank so that the church’s food pantry can obtain food there.
So the members do that, spending $5,000 over the course of a year. Their gifts qualify for up to a 25% deduction on their Federal taxes, so the after-tax cost to them is as little as $3,750.
With that $5,000 on its account, the pantry is able to draw approximately 35,700 lbs. of food from the Food Bank.
The pantry lovingly stocks its store-like shelves with the food.
714 families are invited/permitted to select 50 lbs. of food they can use. All of the food ends up being used.
Bottom Line: At a cost of as little as $3,750, Church Y has reduced hunger in the community by about 35,700 lbs. = 35,700 meals.
During the worst economic downturn in half a century, which approach makes the most sense?
Which approach does the pantry you support use? Which approach would you want used if your family was hungry?
So what can you do now?
Find out whether the pantry you’ve been donating to works with a food bank. If they do, great! Start making your donations onto their account there (exactly how many pounds they’ll get per dollar may vary from what Cash Man described). If they don’t, encourage them to learn about what it takes to start working with their regional food bank. They may want to have a look at this guide from our resources page.