- After volunteering at a food bank, I saw how much candy goes to waste after Halloween.
- Food banks and their clients need more nutritious and abundant food.
- Now I give out chips and crackers which are fun treats with more substance and nutritional value.
As a food bank volunteer, I saw an almost constant parade of people dropping off bags of unwanted trick-or-treat candy in the days after Halloween.
We only had enough room for two milk cartons of candy, so most of the donations went straight into the trash.
Where I worked, extra candy was sometimes displayed on the tables during food distribution days. We would invite people to take as much as they wanted, but most of it was left in the bowls at the end of the day. Then we set it up on the table in the volunteer area. Like the candy that appears in workplace break rooms after Halloween, most of it was thrown out by the end of the week.
It was always heartbreaking for me to see the waste. The resources that went to candy that no one wanted would have been better spent on nutritious food that can fill someone’s stomach.
At my food bank orientation, I was also instructed to never pack candy in food boxes for our clients. We could give out things like baking chocolate if someone asked for it, but food banks try to feed people.
Candy has no nutritional value – and often our customers didn’t want it.
Some food banks have even instituted no candy, no soda donation policies. The policy recognizes that people with food insecurity tend to have lower quality diets. They are also meant to educate the public about the need to share nutritious foods.
People with food insecurity are used to having foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition. But our customers actually loved getting fresh vegetables and fruit that weren’t brown or squishy. When customers took treats, they wanted them to be at least somewhat filling. Fruit pies went fast, but sugary birthday cakes mostly sat on a shelf, waiting to be composted.
Of course, each food bank can be a little different. But I bet most people would prefer to get nutritious items from their must-have lists or cash instead of candy.
Every time I tossed a basket of candy into the bin at the food bank, I had time to rethink my own Halloween giveaways
I’m not going to start handing out trick-or-treaters salad kits or toothbrushes, but this year I’m giving out more substantial lunch box meals instead of candy.
I am not suggesting that packaged cookies and chips are healthy foods. I know they are still snacks, but they provide some nutrition and contain more fiber and vitamins than Skittles or Starburst.
Plus, kids can still enjoy them. Last year when I watched my niece and nephew sort through their Halloween selections, they reached for the snack-sized bags of chips first.
If all else fails, these snacks are something I don’t mind having in my own pantry. And I know that if they end up at the food bank, I don’t have to throw them away.