So I went the food bank at the local church this morning to collect a box of food. It was around 6:50am. The weather was grey and drizzling. My intent was to collect the items one would receive and demonstrate how to create a healthy meal for the family using only the items from the food bank — with the exception of a few seasonings.

There I was, the fourth person in line among a group of elderly West Indian ladies who were kind enough to fill me in on the way things worked. They showed me where to stand to avoid cars that come too close to the curb, how many bags I may need and how to watch out for people notorious for cutting the line each week.

We laughed and made small talk of the light rain that began to fall. The woman in front of me, Louise, sat in walker with an empty bag in her lap. She was equipped with a partially broken umbrella that she would open and closed periodically as she checked for the rain to stop.

“You ever go to the one on Clarkson?” she said  as she squinted to see if she recognized me.

“No” I said “I’ve never been there, what time do they start?” “Around 10am” she said—”But you gotta get there EARLY-O’CLOCK!” as she cracked a smile.

The door to the church flew open and the woman who runs the food bank came out and handed everyone in line a copy of a religious pamphlet and allowed the line to begin filing in.

I approached the table and signed my name and received the food portion for a family of 3.

After shoveling the various frozen items, canned food, packaged food and 4 pieces of produce into the bag, I zipped it closed and headed home.

Needless to say I left humbled and in some ways quite heartbroken. But I was intent on proving that one could be creative and resourceful enough to make a set of acceptable meals with only these ingredients.


Here’s what I got:

2 pepperoni pizzas

1 can of string beans

1 can of peas

1 can of garbanzo beans

1 can of diced tomatoes (dented)

1 box of Stove Top Stuffing (expired)

1 whole frozen chicken

4 (16oz) bottles of water

4 frozen ham and egg cinnamon/raisin breakfast sandwiches

2 turnips

2 parsnips

1 pack of Land O’ Lakes butter sauce base (whatever that is)


Meal #1

Baked whole chicken (thawed/cleaned and rubbed with seasonings)

Stove Top Stuffing 

Green beans (canned)


Meal #2

Leftover chicken pieces


Sweet Peas (canned) drained and heated in shallow water 


Meal #3

Chicken Soup (chicken parts)

Chopped parsnips

Chopped turnips

(I’d make a stock with water, onion, garlic and diced celery and seasonings)

Meal #4

Pepperoni pizza w/ diced tomato and basil topping


Meal #5

4 frozen ham and egg cinnamon/raisin breakfast sandwiches (thawed and heated in the oven)


Obviously this is still not enough food for a family of 3 to last the week without supplementing groceries with another form of assistance. Fortunately in the US there are often different sources of assistance for those in need that may overlap.

The women I met at the food bank seem to visit multiple food banks throughout the week in order to gather enough food to sustain their families — which would appear to be necessary. 

Feeding a family with items from a local food bank — as challenging as it may be — is definitely possible. I will be visiting another food bank this week in hopes of getting my hands on more foods to be creative with. My goal is to help families find more value in the items available to them and provide the healthiest ways to prepare them.


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