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‘Cash really works’: Why the Vancouver food bank says you shouldn’t buy those donation hampers

Click to play video 'Vancouver food bank unhappy with quality of supermarket hampers' Vancouver food bank unhappy with quality of supermarket hampers
WATCH ABOVE: The Greater Vancouver Food Bank says the pre-made hampers being sold at some supermarkets are neither a good value, nor do they contain the type of products that are useful to families in need. – Dec 23, 2020

Have you ever spotted one of those pre-packed donation bags for the food bank at a grocery store and thought it would be an easy way to do something good?

The Greater Vancouver Food Bank is asking you not to. Instead, it wants you to donate directly, after recently receiving a number of sub-par food hampers purchased locally.

“In this $20 bag, we have two Kraft Dinners, a chai tea, linguini, and a small bag of cauliflower crisps,” food bank CEO David Long said Wednesday, showing off the contents of a donation package sold through a local supermarket.

Read more: “It’s their first time’: More people than ever are turning to food banks under COVID-19

“This is not $20, in my opinion, of healthy, nutritious food.”

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In another brown paper bag of donations sold for $10, Long found a packet of pasta, a bowl of kimchi-flavoured instant noodles, a tin of corn and a tin of sardine paste.

Another bag he opened in front of Global News was filled with discounted Halloween candy.

“This is not the quality of food we are actually distributing,” Long said.

“If I was to give this to you and say, ‘Here’s dinner. Some pasta, corn and sardine paste,’ yeah, I’m not sure that would go over too well.”

Long wouldn’t speculate on what happened to the difference between the price on the bags and the value of their contents.

The donations came from an IGA in West Vancouver, where the owner told Global News some of the items had been mixed up and should have gone to a food reclaim organization.

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On Thursday, IGA president Gary Sorensen said the supermarket location’s donation program had been put on hold while the company investigates.

“The independently-owned West Vancouver IGA store owner takes full responsibility for the insufficient items donated and is putting in imperative corrective measures to ensure moving forward, all food donations to the food bank are the essentials they desperately depend on,” he said in a statement.

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Long, however, wants to focus on getting the word out to charitable British Columbians that the best way to donate is with cash, directly to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank‘s website.

Read more: Food banks’ demand surges amid COVID-19. Now they worry about long-term pressures

Every dollar donated can be stretched further, because of the organization’s large purchasing power, he said.

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The food bank can also be more selective about what it procures, including fresh and nutritious items, he added.

In the meantime, Long said the organization will no longer be accepting sealed bags it can’t see inside.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said.

“The food bank is not interested in taking something off somebody’s shelves that they can’t sell to the public.”