The Long Island Council of Churches (who operates the Freeport Food Pantry where we send the food we collect) has requested that instead of sending non-perishable food we simply send gift cards to major supermarkets. They give the following reasons, all logical:
- Expands and diversifies client food choices.
- Empowers clients to make food choices according to their individual health needs and cultural preferences.
- Enables clients to buy fresh foods, which are usually better nutritional choices.
- Cuts down on wasted nonperishable food held in our pantries.
- Eliminates need to rotate food.
- Increases efficiency of food distribution.
- Eliminates time and effort required to deliver food to homebound clients.
- Reduces storage space needed for food storage.
- Saves donors the cost of gas and vehicle mileage.
- Donors can mail in gift certificate rather than drive food in.
Yet from a worship and stewardship standpoint I don't like the gift card idea. There is something special about going around the grocery store - or helping our children go around the grocery store - and picking out our gift to our neighbor. A very strong statement is made when our wagons come up the aisle. And the food is a physical object that passes from our hands into the hands of our neighbor in need. Its personal. Plus a gift card requires the client to go to both the food pantry and a grocery store and who is to guarentee that the client doesn't buy beer, tobacco, junk food, etc.