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Our Illinois 4-H Story

Purposeful donations: What they are and how to make them

Many people are unaware of what happens to food after it is donated. Obviously it is eaten, but what happens in the time between the time when it is dropped off at a pantry and the time when it is consumed? There are several important steps in this process, but one that is frequently forgotten is the preparation of food by those it is donated to. 

A non-purposeful donation is made without taking into account the needs and resources of the people who will receive the donation. Food like fresh fish fits this description, as it can be difficult to prepare, and assumes access to other ingredients and tools to make it a serviceable and enjoyable meal. In contrast, a purposeful donation considers the needs and resources of the people who will receive the donation. Items like bread and peanut butter require very little expertise and additional tools to turn into a full meal. 

When donating food, it is important to make sure that you are making purposeful donations. When determining whether or not an item will make a good donation, here are four qualities to consider: 

Does it require additional ingredients?

Many food items are not edible or enjoyable by themselves. Nobody likes to eat relish without a hotdog, or cereal without milk.

Does it require additional tools?

Most foods require additional tools to prepare. This can mean access to a stove, or a more particular device like a pressure cooker. It is okay to donate items that need some preparation, but if a food requires a tool that is especially niche (like an oyster knife) you should consider a different option.

Does it require an unrealistic time commitment?

Cooking can be extremely time consuming. People’s lives are hectic, and many find it hard to find the time to cook at all. Donating an item that requires a several-hour commitment to prepare, such as a frozen roast, only worsens this problem. Food that can be cooked quickly is ideal.

Does it require unusual culinary expertise?

Not everyone knows how to safely cook shellfish. Not everyone knows how to cook split-pea soup, even when provided with the ingredients. Make sure to donate foods that are not excessively complicated to prepare.

If the answer to all of the above questions is no, then the item you are considering is most likely a purposeful donation!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Holmes is a sophomore in high school in Cook County. For the past eight of his sixteen years, Daniel has been a 4-H club member. In this time he has cycled through many different offices within his club, the Creative Clovers. Daniel is eager to work alongside his 4-H peers to fight food insecurity in the state of Illinois.