Clean Your Cupboard & Feed Others

Over the years, we've stockpiled foods we will never eat

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By David Hammond

With holidays coming, and lots of food coming in and going out our doors, it seems the perfect time to organize our cupboard andcabinets.

We've lived in our house for around a quarter-century, and we've collected lots of foodstuffs over the years – some that might actually have moved with us when we began inhabiting our current home.

Digging through our cupboard and cabinets, I uncovered startlingly large quantities of salt, vinegar and quinoa. I like salt, and we seem to forget we have a stockpile of vinegar, so we keep buying it. With the quinoa…well, it always seems like a good idea to eat the stuff, but we never do and it just piles up.

I also excavated a huge number of packaged goods, sauces, BBQ rubs and the like that I concluded we would never use.  All these one-off items were new and sealed, so they all seemed like they'd be edible.

I stopped by the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry in the basement of the First United Church of Christ and talked to Paula Berg, the Pantry Manager. I asked her if she had any need for the odd miscellany of edible things I pulled out of my cabinet, and she said she wanted them because the Pantry has a kind of "bonus table" where people can grab random items, kind of special little treats that go beyond the basics of meat, bread and produce that the Pantry so helpfully provides to the hungry in Oak Park and other nearby zip codes.


I ended up leaving about 20 pounds of unopened bottles and other packages of food at The Food Pantry.

The Food Pantry, if you've never visited, is a very impressive operation. A line of stainless steel refrigerators store perishable items, and the racks are filled with fresh produce and Costco-class crates of canned items.

As I was leaving, I asked Berg if they had any need of cook books (people send me a lot of these, and I rarely ask for them or use them), and she (thank goodness!), said Yes, so we'll be bringing a few dozen books over to her soon.

If you feel the urge to cleanse your cupboards of sealed food items, in good condition, that you'll never use, consider dropping them off at the Food Pantry. The foods you've forgotten about or just don't want to eat could end up as a welcome dinner for a family who will really appreciate it.


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