The holiday season marks an increase in food donations to families in need. It is a nice idea that everyone gets a turkey on Thanksgiving, regardless of wealth, and everyone can get together with loved ones and share a holiday meal. For me though, seeing such outpouring and effort over one day, (there are non-profits that focus exclusively on providing Thanksgiving meals every year to struggling families) makes me wonder “what about the other days of the year?”
Food pantries struggle year round to keep food flowing to those who need it for survival. With so many food insecure families, isn’t it a bit premature to focus so much on fancy holiday fare?
With no mean spirited intent, this is the time of year I am least likely to donate food. I’d rather give on the days people in need go hungry and are forgotten. The holidays are a great time for reflection and being thankful, but life is lived year round.
So, instead of peaks and valleys of food donations, if you are planning on giving food this holiday season, think about holding off on that donation and saving it for another day. It is more remarkable to do a generous thing on an unremarkable day. You and I eat every day. Everyone should.
I, like many in my field, have long thought the social service sector needs better metrics for evaluating agencies’ effectiveness. There are many standardized metrics in business to determine the profitability of a corporate venture. The common goal of profit maximization in most for-profit enterprises makes it easy to evaluate companies within sectors and across the economy. In social services the missions are vastly different and it is difficult to determine what common metric makes sense. How do you compare a food pantry and foster care program?
The Washington Post reported today
that an organization called the Working Group for Effective Social Investing
“…is developing a rating system that they hope will radically alter the way donors evaluate whether a charity is worth their money.” The idea is to develop a set of common metrics to evaluate social service agencies based on the social good they create. The effort has certainly attracted some high profile agency insiders, including the CEO of the United Way of America.
I’m supportive of the concept of this initiative, dubbed The Social Investing Rating Tool, but will reserve judgment until seeing what their approach will be to determining what it means to create social good, or how they will even define it. There are a lot of questions to be answered as the industry moves forward toward evaluating what value it adds in the world. It is an important question to answer. But the social scientific complexities of evaluating proper outcomes measurements are significant, and I worry that with such large organizations and big philanthropic initiatives behind The Social Investing Rating Tool initiative, that the group will have to be very careful to create a fair measurement standard that doesn’t favor any particular type of cause or agency.
A friend sent me this AP article titled “Thousands pick up free vegetables on Co. Farm”. The article explains that a Colorado farmer family opened up their 600 acre farm for people to pick free vegetables. The farmers expected about 10,000 people would come, but instead about 40,000 came seeking free veggies.
I find this to be a telling example of the dire need American families find themselves in due to the economic crisis. The visual image of 40,000 people ascending on a Colorado farm to pick free food for their families sounds less like a recession and more like a sign of the second American Depression.