Could you survive on food bank rations?

I have organised a big collection of donations for the local food bank at work and, as usual, my colleagues have shown great generosity. I just hope that it helps some needy families out over the festive period. Being so poor you have to rely on this kind of charity to feed yourself and your family, especially when you live in a rich country like the UK, must be soul destroying. At Christmas, when there is so much waste and excess, it is too terrible to contemplate. I hope I never experience it first hand.

The food bank requested the following items:

Milk (UHT or powdered), sugar, fruit juice, soup, pasta sauce, sponge pudding, tomatoes, cereal, rice pudding, teabags, coffee, instant mash potatoes, rice, pasta, tinned meat/fish, tinned beg, tinned fruit, jam, biscuits and snack bars. 

This got me thinking. What would I make with these ingredients? I would really need some onions, garlic, stock cubes, cheddar cheese and  dried mixed herbs to make some tasty dinners. I would hope their would be some beans amongst the tinned veg for some good protein. 

Risotto would be a good choice with chopped onions, some canned veg such as sweet corn and tomatoes. If I had canned tuna or beans I would add some of those too. Tuna or vegetable pasta bake with the pasta sauce or tomatoes would be a good option too with a little grated cheese on top. I could make a hash with corned beef but I would need real potatoes rather than instant I think. The addition of some pulses with the veg and some stock could make a warming hearty soup. Spam or corned beef fritters anyone? I haven’t had those since school but they weren’t too bad! I might make a mix of beans and veg and top with some instant mash for a kind of veggie shepherds pie, or make veggie curry and rice if I had some curry powder. I love tinned fish! If I was lucky enough to have sardines or mackerel in my bag I would be tempted to eat this as a simple but nutritious meal on toast, or mixed with a few chilli flakes, tomatoes and garlic to make a kind of Mediterranean sardines with spaghetti. Mac cheese with the powdered milk would be nice too.

It is possible to make your food bank food taste ok I guess but you still wouldn’t have much of it. I am grateful I have enough this Christmas.

What would you cook from food bank rations? Have you ever had to?

10 thoughts on “Could you survive on food bank rations?

  1. I understand that food banks give out differing kinds of provisions for folk in differing circumstances where food preparation is concerned. There are “cold boxes” for those who have no cooking facilities at all, so tins have to have ring pulls & the contents could be eaten straight from the tin, for example baked beans. Other boxes are created for those who might only have access to a kettle, so can only add hot water to whatever they are given. Some people have access to a kettle and a microwave & so suitable foods are put into their boxes. Not everyone has access to an oven & a hob, things, I think, most of us take for granted. As people have to be referred to food banks by a suitable professional & food is only given for three days, and then can only be repeated for a limited number of occasions it is dire circumstances which necessitate food bank visits. What an indictment on our society. So nice to hear of your workmates giving so generously. Happy Christmas, & best wishes Vee x

  2. Thankfully I have never been in that position of having to survive on food bank rations but I am acutely aware of the “great divide” between the haves and the have nots. I suppose it is because I work in Geneva where there is tons of money. Across the border here in France it is much more “normal” and there is indeed poverty. Every week I buy a few things when grocery shopping and once a month take it down to the local food bank run by the Salvation Army – wonderful people. The first time I went I showed up at “opening time” – 7 pm – when all the recipients were lining up. One young woman was in tears (of embarrassment I think) and I realized I had been insensitive to show up at that time. Now I go around 9.30 to drop stuff off (lots of tuna, soup, canned goods and I always throw in a few bags of sweets – last time I took a few small advent calendars). I rarely buy pork goods but I guess anyone who doesn’t want it can refuse it if so. I was talking to the ladies working there and found out that they are also looking for warm clothes, particularly at this time of the year, and work in conjunction with the local psychiatric hospital finding warm clothes for homeless and disadvantaged people. I put out a call at work and have been inundated. Trouble is I cross Geneva on a bus to the border so I am lugging it all on the bus with me. Still, I am nothing if not a plodder. I can cook and can probably find my way around a cheap shop like that provided by the food bank, but I know it wouldn’t be easy. I just thank God I’m not in that position. Anna

  3. My 94 yr. old neighbor has been a volunteer at our town’s food bank since the 1980s. God love the man, he still goes every week to help sort and distribute the food. He’s then given a bag of food for himself and his wife, and for the past 5 years, I’ve been preparing meals for them from it, so I know it takes a lot of creativity. There’s always produce in the bag. Usually potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions with a little of whatever is in season. Some of the “fresh” has gone bad or moldy, but I use what’s good, buy some meat (he prefers beef or pork) and make stir fries, stews, etc. This week I made meatball stew for them with cabbage, carrots and potatoes. If there are eggs (once every few months), I make them quiche adding cheese. Once a month there’ll be pasta or rice and beans in the bag. They love a fried rice I make, as well as BBQ or baked beans or Southwestern chili. Pasta makes good skillet dinners. Recently there was a tub of cottage cheese, so I made them a mock cheesecake for the holidays, using a Dollar Tree store bought graham cracker pie crust, a can of sweetened, condensed milk, eggs and vanilla. They get tired of the same thing over and over (I’ve discovered), and she has trouble chewing, so I also make creamed soups, add pureed veggies to homemade meatloaf and so on. It takes about 5 hours per week to make the meals. I’ve often wondered about those who depend on the food bank to feed their families, because I have 40 years or more experience cooking from scratch, an equipped kitchen, and budget to be able to buy whatever other food is needed (mainly meats, cheese, seasonings, etc.) to round out meals. This would be an especially bad time of year for them, too. It’s good to hear about all of those who donate in whatever way they can!

      • That’s why I’ve been making sure my sons know how to cook. The neighbors are wonderful people. They’ve been like surrogate great-grandparents to my guys. She had a stroke 5 years ago, is wheelchair bound and has dementia. That’s why I started cooking for them. And they know I was once a published cookbook writer.

  4. Well done for making donations to food bank. Before I retired this summer I often found myself referring people to the food bank. What I soon realised is that the donations can be variable – what comes in goes out – including dozens of tins of lychee! (In urban Shropshire?). The other thing is that if you have no money for food, you probably haven’t got money for the gas or electric as they are usually paid on a prepay card. Also the receipiant needs to be an inventive cook as mentioned above. But if you’ve got mental health problems, which is very common, due to the stressful situations people find themselves in, then there is no energy left to cook anything complicated.

    All in all its a tricky situation and we shouldn’t need food banks in an ideal world. However they are really really needed and if everyone gave a little something each week we could make a huge difference.
    Jane in lincolnshire

  5. I live in Australia and was at a friends place, she has a friend over from Wales and she was saying that some people have to choose between being warm or eating. In Australia we get lots of govt help with concessions of sevices( elec,gas even water) if I pay me electricity bill on time I save over $100. So guess people have to rely on food banks, I’m on an aged pension and over half my pension goes in rent, but I’m really tight and eat extremely well but it’s different climate I guess that helps that helps, I’m not a smoker and rarely drink alcohol. My daughter has had to get the odd food parcel and I don’t think I could survive as there is not enuf fresh food for my liking

  6. There’s usually a collection going on in one of the supermarkets I use and I always put a few items in. I always put in a tin of cat food and dog food in addition to human food in the collection trolley.

  7. Most all of my childhood we relied on food stamps (in US) and food banks. We had good meals and enough. At Christmas we were given turkey with all the trimmings most years. Did it feel good to be the charity case? Of course not. We got by and did what we had to do.

  8. I contribute regularly to the food bank collection. I always chose things that can be eaten cold, just in case the recipient has no money for power. I do add treat items for children and check the protein and nutrition levels on the packaging. Sometimes the cheapest product has the best nutritional value. I thank the Lord that I can do this.

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