Dig Deep and Donate, People

As I was attempting to prepare dinner the other night, I was ransacking my pantry (which extends up and back in such a way that only someone who was nearly eight feet tall or a giraffe would find useful) for a can of diced tomatoes, and I noticed the overwhelming amount of foodstuff that I simply had no idea existed. Four cans of red kidney beans? Really? Three boxes of Annie’s Homegrown Organic Macaroni and Cheese? Oh, come on. Five different kinds of mustard? That’s just silly. And not one, but six packages of crackers varying in size and taste from melba toast to these cracked-pepper-infused table water crackers that make me sneeze. All unused, unopened, and totally forgotten. It might seem a little OCD to you, but it means something to me beyond just being neat: Not only was I embarrassed at the total and unforgivable disorganization of my pantry (which I had worked so hard to achieve so this kind of thing didn’t happen), I was angry—with myself—for inadvertently wasting so much food.

And then an e-mail from Labyrinth Books arrived in my in-box: It was a call to action to help the Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton who are currently struggling to meet the urgent need for food in the underserved communities of Trenton through their food pantry. For those of you who don’t know the lengths the Crisis Ministry goes to in order to help prevent hunger, it’s pretty mind-blowing. Through their “client choice,” grocery-style pantries—where customers make their own selections based on household size and up-to-date nutritional guidelines—and its home delivery program, each month the nonprofit assists more than 1,300 Trenton area-households, more than 200 Princeton-area households, and 120 people who are homebound. They do have help from area vendors like Philabundance, Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, and Italian People’s Bakery, but as the summer heats up and the supplies are dwindling, they’ve been forced to reach out to the community for help.

So, I order you right now to turn off the television, put down that basket of laundry, lay aside that awful tabloid rag you shouldn’t be reading anyway (I know, I know: people in glass houses…), and throw open the doors to your pantry. See if you’ve got what the Crisis Ministry desperately needs:

*Canned proteins (e.g., tuna, salmon, chicken, chili)

*Shelf-stable milk (e.g. Parmalat)

*Peanut butterCanned spaghetti sauce/canned tomatoes

*Cans of vegetables, low-sodium

*Canned potatoes

*Cans of fruit, low-fructose

*Cans of legumes (e.g., kidney beans, black beans)

*Hot cereal (e.g., oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat)

*Small/medium box of cold cereal

*1-2 lbs. pasta

*Small jelly, jam or honey (plastic containers)

*Boxed macaroni and cheese

*1 lb. dried beans

*1- or 2-lb. bags of rice

*Dessert box or treat (e.g., Jell-O, pudding, cookies, granola bars)

If your pantry is anything like mine, you have at least two items on this list, hiding away behind the Cheerios. And when you find those peaches canned in water and the two boxes of shredded wheat you’ve been ignoring, bring them over to Labyrinth Books (122 Nassau Street, Princeton; 609.497.1600 or labyrinthbooks.com) and they will get the items to the Crisis Ministry. With the forecast calling for rain for most of the weekend, why not take the time to hunker down and do what you can to help the Crisis Ministry out? Trust me, you really don’t need that third jar of peanut butter—but someone else does. —JH

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