Many, if not most, of us are willing to contribute to a request for food for a neighborhood or congregational food shelf. We might be generous with foods we usually buy for ourselves like peanut butter and canned fruits. We might be cleaning our cupboards or closets. Or we might just find a sale on something that we do not ourselves like and buy it because it is a bargain. We donate — and we feel good — because we have helped someone who has less than we do.

Generosity is not to be put down…not by any means. But, did we really stop to consider the needs of those who are living with hunger in our neighborhood? Do we know who they are? Do we know what they like to eat? Do we know what sort of living conditions make a difference in what they are able to cook and eat? Should not these considerations make a difference in our donations?

I am reminded of a story I read several years ago (shared by Pastor Steve Molin) that I have always called the “can opener story.” Here a man comes into a food shelf and kindly donates a can opener! Needless to say, the volunteer staffing the counter doesn’t understand. The man explains, however, that when he was a client at the food shelf, he received a large bag of many cans of foodstuffs but he did not own a can opener. That meant he had to resort to spending money at a convenience store for a hotdog for his dinner!

I am not suggesting you donate can openers (but you might give it some thought). I am suggesting that you carefully consider what it is that you are donating to your food shelf. Ask the staff what their greatest needs are and what culturally specific foods their clients need and can use. It just might be something you have never eaten yourself or something you do not like. It might not even be something to eat but something equally important like toothpaste or laundry soap.

We share because God calls us to do so. Let’s share what will fill someone need.

Vernita Kennen
Incarnation, Shoreview