Food Pantry

I wrote this post with the help of Husband, who is devoted volunteer at our local food pantry. He works mainly on Thursday afternoons selecting meat for various sizes of families. He tries to “mix it up” so people get a nice variety of the frozen ground and whole pieces of meat. He also goes once a month to help unload the big truck with the large quantities of food that comes from a regional food distribution site in Fargo.

He mentioned the other day that they received a large shipment of of smoked turkey necks. He also stated they currently have vast quantities of smoked Chinese oysters, various dried beans, frozen pork knuckles, hocks, and necks, overgrown winter squashes, Mac and Cheese, eggs (including blue eggs), hot Jimmie Dean sausage, frozen haddock and pollock, Chinese noodles, canned tomato sauce, canned vegetables, soup, canned fruit, half and half, cereals, snacks, dried lentils and garbanzos, Lil’ Smokies, pancakes mix, Mexican and Chinese condiments, surplus diet soda, etc.

The volunteers load up the carts. Patrons can’t order what they want. This made me wonder what a person who has very few resources would do with a can of Chinese oysters , frozen pork necks, and a pound of dried garbanzo beans. Husband got the go ahead from the Pantry Board to talk to our local County Extension Home Economist about nutrition information for patrons. I also asked him if the needy folks even know how to cook dried beans or even have the right cookware to prepare a meal from scratch. He and another volunteer are going to come up with tasty recipes using the Food Pantry provisions to help make this food go farther and be palatable.

What would you do with smoked turkey necks and canned Chinese oysters ? What are the essential cooking pots that are necessary for basic cooking? What are the basic recipes that people should know to prepare?

44 thoughts on “Food Pantry”

  1. I do not even eat fresh oysters I would have to be literally starving before opening a can of oysters! Then again is it actually worth the energy required to pick the meat off a turkey neck? Would a neck boiled in water even make a broth? As far as cookware goes my camping set contains one pot and one fry pan and that is all I actually need even tho my kitchen cupboards contain an ungodly number of specialty items and I don’t really enjoy cooking ( just eating)! My husband was also active in his church food pantry, I rarely went with him because I would become livid at how these supposedly poor people arrived in the very latest model cars, dressed in the latest style clothes with fantastic hairdos! And frequently complained about the supplies provided!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am with you Jeanne. I would have to be absolutely sure that I was going to die before any of these things would go into my mouth. As a vegetarian for almost 50 years, I am still pretty sure that I would eat meat before I would die but again I’d have to be really sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are some things I would just toss right out to the chickens. And there are some things even they don’t eat (kale for example). But in this situation, wouldn’t it have to be soup from turkey necks? How much meat is on a turkey neck?
    Oysters just make me shudder.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I heard of a woman who tried to eat some ice cream but found it yucky because it was so highly processed. She threw it out by putting it in a bowl by the dog’s food bowl. Days later, the “ice cream” had not melted but sat there looking like when it had been put there. Worse, the dog wouldn’t touch it . . . and you know what dogs will eat!

        Liked by 4 people

  3. I have cooked turkey necks a few times. I used to take them off my sister’s hands at Thanksgiving, along with the giblets. I had a cat who would eat giblets. I would do a broth from the neck, and just cook the giblets. My sister would also send along some turkey meat to make soup and sandwiches. At this point in my life I don’t really want spend the time on a turkey neck broth anymore, though, and I no longer have a cat who gets into organ meats – he prefers tuna. I’m afraid the oysters would probably end up as compost if they were sent home with me.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. If someone wants turkey necks, it’s fine, but for someone coming in to a foodshelf, they should not be presented with them as if it’s a typical meal. A foodshelf should always be cognizant that not everyone has the time or inclination to turn every potential food source into consumable food.

        Liked by 6 people

  4. I also have an ungodly amount of equipment in the kitchen and also on the shelf in the basement (because I have too many to fit in the kitchen.) I do try to use them on a regular basis if possible. YA and I just dragged the fondue pot up a couple of days ago for a midday fondue feast.

    I’m having trouble envisioning one or two recipes that everybody needs to know how to make. I’m kind of thinking you should know how to cook eggs for which you need a skillet. If you can find it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I was struck by the patronizing, presumptuous “beggars can’t be choosers” attitude whereby patrons don’t have a choice of the food they take. Of course I only know as much as you related in the intro but I would be willing to bet that a lot of the wholly inappropriate foodstuffs foisted upon these people get thrown out immediately or fed to the dog.

    You can’t assume that the patrons don’t know how to cook or don’t have the imagination to find ways to use some of this stuff but you also can’t assume that they have freezers or freezer space to keep the ingredients viable and, above all, one ought not to assume that they are not entitled to personal or cultural preferences.

    Many of the foods you listed require time and attention in their preparation, the necks and hocks and knuckles would need to be simmered for hours to yield scant meat. Likewise the beans would need soaking and simmering. That implies a luxury of time that many impoverished people don’t have and equipment and fuel that likewise may be in short supply.

    If the patrons were allowed to take only the foods they could or would use, you would very quickly learn which ones were a waste of space and you could drop the kabuki of providing bountiful nutrition.

    Otherwise this is just a performance of generosity theater.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some people argue with conviction that all social programs for the poor are one form or another of “generosity theater.” That is, their function is not to help the poor but to soothe the troubled consciences of the well-to-do.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Covid is the reason they can’t choose their own food, since the space is too small and crowded. That should change as Covid restrictions are lifted.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No doubt Covid has exacerbated the situation; wish I could be more hopeful that the situation will be remedied once restrictions are lifted.

        Liked by 1 person

    3. There was a Trump-era proposal to replace food support with preselected boxes of food. Didn’t go anywhere, thankfully, but what a “beggars can’t be choosers” attitude behind this. How do you even begin to put together a box or a needy family in today’s world? You could have a member of the family who’s lactose intolerant, someone who’s allergic to peanuts, someone who can’t tolerate onions or peppers, someone who’s vegan or vegetarian, someone who has been advised to avoid soy. I remember when my nieces were younger, one of them loved spicy foods, and the other would have no spice. The one who loved spicy foods would eat no fish, and the other loved all kinds of fish. It would be absurd or the government to drop a box of food on them and say “Here – eat this or starve,” It is so obvious that the most efficient way to deliver food to the needy is to allow them to choose what they want.

      https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/13/white-house-proposes-delivering-food-boxes-instead-of-food-stamps.html

      Liked by 2 people

  6. The problem described in today’s blog both saddens and angers me. How can a system that is set up to help people in need, be so utterly tone deaf, arrogant, and inefficient? There are so many problems with this picture that I don’t even know where to start.

    Having worked fourteen years in an alternative school, and having been in charge of the school’s breakfast, lunch and snack program, I can attest to all of the red tape aimed at assuring quality and balanced meals. But, as the old proverb goes: you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. If you put something on a student’s tray that the student doesn’t like or want, or can’t eat, it simply gets tossed (sometimes along with the cutlery or the whole damn tray).

    Personally, I happen to like smoked oysters, though I don’t know that ones from China would be my first choice. I’m also pretty much an omnivore with sufficient cooking experience and other resources that I’d be able to figure out a meal given a random package of the ingredients mentioned above, but for some reason I doubt that would be true of most of the food shelf users. And surely, what you eat depends on so many variables that it seems absurd to not take any of them into consideration when putting these packages together. Bless Chris for trying to improve on a bad situation.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The food pantry only gets what it gets. They can’t order what is truly needed. What is available is distributed. They depend on donations, so if Walmart or the Optimists Club decides to donate 300 pizzas, that is what they do. None of the donors ask what is really needed.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. From the items you listed, it sounds like a lot of the donations are otherwise unsaleable. Generosity theater at the donor level as well.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Somebody needs to determine what actually happens to the food that gets distributed. If little of it gets used by the recipients, then the food pantry as a solution to a problem is illusory and that’s a lot of activity for little result.

          Liked by 3 people

        2. I’m reminded of a comment a Russian worker once made about the Soviet system:
          “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

          Liked by 2 people

      2. I remember when I volunteered for a local food shelf, people donated a lot of
        things like canned cranberry sauce and stuffing mix around the holidays, assuming that everyone had the same holiday traditions they did. What the food shelf really wanted was rice for the Hmong families.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. What if you don’t have a Dutch oven or soup pot? How do you make soup or roasts? I suggested to Husband that cookware would be good to distribute, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reminds me of a segment of The Splendid Table, where a caller gives the hose 3 or 4 ingredients that they need to make into something edible.

    I have no problem with the smoked oysters, along with sardines and mackerel – somewhere in my notebooks is an article called, maybe, Sardines for Naysayers – have them as a snack or light lunch with cheese and crackers, or crudities… or as part of a main dish salad. Turkey broth in the crock pot, use it the next day to cook rice or beans for a stew. I agree that it would be good to have the right equipment to cook some of these things, and will work better for experienced cooks with some time to plan and cook, than for inexperienced folks.

    I would like for everyone to know how to make a good vegetable and bean soup, and a main dish salad. I wish everyone, esp. those who can’t afford expensive vegetables, to know that they can use dandelion greens, lambs quarters, and purslane – weeds found in most yards – in their salads.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. When addressing issues like this, it’s important to keep in mind that different people have different needs. People who have health issues, physical and/or mental, many of them elderly, have different needs than families with small children. A solution for one problem doesn’t fix them all, and sometimes when we begin to consider the complexity of the issue, we feel overwhelmed and do nothing. It’s hard to keep chipping away at a problem when there seems to be no solution in sight.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Turkey necks and Chinese oysters wouldn’t even make it into my house. There’s not much on that list that I would eat – Mac & cheese, canned fruit, maybe the canned vegetables (depends on what they are), soup (again depends on what kind), eggs, and cereal. Of course one would need milk for the cereal and Mac & cheese. I’m not a fancy cook so I don’t have much in the way of kitchen equipment, mostly the basic pots and fry pans along with a crock pot. An accomplished cook with extensive recipes would be frustrated in my kitchen.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Am I allowed to pout in public in this space? We in this senior community have been living in lockdown circumstances for about 14 months, with a few rare moments of contact with those who love us. We just did another nasal test, the sixth time my nostrils have been reamed. Everyone expected a good result, but instead three health aides tested positive. The portcullis has dropped again, and I won’t see my daughter for some time. I fear we are confronting one of the new and especially contagious virus variants. This thing just won’t go away.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. I take it that not everyone on the health care staff at your facility has been vaccinated, is that an accurate assumption, Steve? If it is, do you have any idea how many, and why? I’ve read that a surprisingly large percentage of health care workers all over the US have declined to be vaccinated, a troubling trend, to say the least.

          Like

  12. I need to let all the Baboons know that all the outrage and criticisms over the food pantry are exactly what Husband thinks and feels about the situation. He is on the Board of Directors, and wants to make it a more functional service. Everything the Baboon said today is exactly what Husband has thought and felt as well.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. I am waaaaay over my head with cooking. The internet and my talented sister helps.
    This week I lucked out cooking my first turkey.
    Thawed a sixteen pounder completely.
    On advice ( and preference) threw away the guts and neck)
    Put the turkey on a bed of onions, celery, carrots, peppers.
    Made up a sauce of butter, oregano, lemon juice, squeezed oranges. Slathered inside and out.
    No stuffing.
    Monitored. Basted. Perfect.
    Next up…fish sticks.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Good job, Wes. When you next visit MN, you will have to cook a Baboon Turkey for all of us.

      My day was derailed by a non-functioning refrigerator. After a lot of disruption, we discovered that it was not the fridge, but the electrical panel box, which will soon be replaced and which was already budgeted. Scary though. We could have had a fire. Man oh man oh man oh man oh man. Our contractor discovered the source of the problem. I appreciate him so much. Best Buy’s Customer Service Subcontractors, I do not appreciate. (Sorry Anna—somebody needs to explain to Customer Service that they are losing business because of these clowns).

      Meanwhile, I have not one idea about Chinese oysters. Smoked turkey necks—soup.

      Liked by 5 people

  14. I live a block from a county pantry. Wednesday is the day people can get food stuff. Thursday morning I check my apartments dumpster. I often find unsalted canned vegetables. I dumpster dive.

    Liked by 2 people

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