Because Canned Foods Can Blow, McKinney's Food Bank Only Wants Peanut Butter

Even the greediest corporations love to put their name on charitable causes, and one of corporate America's favorite acts of charity is the holiday canned food drive.

But the Community Food Pantry Bank of McKinney Director Carol Bodwell has a polite suggestion to the corporations organizing those drives: Consult with the local food bank before you deliver 1,200 cans of cranberry sauce and ramen noodles to their door and say, "You're welcome." Because often, the corporation in charge of the canned food drive is so focused on counting how many cans it can collect that it disregards what is actually in the cans.

"Obviously, to them, 500 cans of anything helps them meet headquarters' mandate," Bodwell says. "I would be much happier with just 100 cans of fruit for the children."

That's why last year, when a city of McKinney employee asked Bodwell what her food bank needed for the holidays she gave them one easy request: peanut butter.

Now in its second year, the city of McKinney's Spread the Love peanut butter drive kicked off last Monday and will run until December 13. During last year's drive, McKinney raised about 600 jars of peanut butter for the local pantry.

Carol Bodwell has been the pantry's director for the past 30 years. She knows that people can sometimes be bewildered by the concept of a peanut-butter-only food drive. "People interpret it, like, 'Gosh if people really need food they wouldn't be that picky,'" she says.

But kids like peanut butter. It has a lot of protein and it lasts forever. It's on the menu at a lot of so-called needs-based food banks, like the one in McKinney. The local pantry feeds people who applied for food stamps but haven't been approved yet, so the menu is inexpensive and basic, consisting of stuff like oatmeal, dried beans, rice, canned produce, macaroni and cheese, and of course, peanut butter.

But Bodwell doesn't want to send out a list asking for all of that stuff, as other food banks sometimes do. She finds that people lose the list, forget what was on it, and then just donate whatever they feel like, which then turns out to be junk food.

"I think this is human nature, you've got one group of people that's going to clean out their cupboard," Bodwell says, "then you've got the group that goes, 'If I didn't have any money what would I want? And it might be Diet Coke, it might be potato chips, it might be chocolate cake.'"

On the other hand, no one is disorganized enough to forget what they're supposed to donate to a Spread the Love peanut butter drive.

"These kinds of things can be very offensive," she says, "but that's the way it is."

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn