Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween in Pittsburgh and How to Properly Donate to Food Drives

Halloween was on a Wednesday last night, but that didn't stop Pittsburgh from partying!  I went to this show of all cover bands at Brillo Box, although I missed most of the Neil Young and Crazy Horse set.
I never listened to the Mummies or Pentagram before in my life, but I gotta say, although it was way too crowded to dance really, I rocked the heck out.  I mean, I guess I was a little shameless about more-or-less headbanging all the way through both the Pentagram and Mummies sets.  It felt really, really good.  Here's a picture that, although dark, sort of shows the crowded energy of the upstairs at Brillo last night.
And were people in costumes?  OH YES THEY WERE.
Here are my friends Dan as a Mexican wrestler, Mary as Gucci Mane (part 2 of that costume coming up), Craig as Willie Nelson (QUITE convincingly, I'd say), and some guy I don't know as something I don't know (maybe not anything, actually).
Mary as Gucci Mane, part two.  YOU GUYS KNOW I LOVE PUNS, RIGHT?
And here is Geoff as something freaky, I don't know what exactly.  Maybe the Joker, almost?  That might explain the facial expression.

I was dressed up also, but I think I'm going to be the same thing next year only better, so I prefer not to publicize it at this point.

I think Mary and I will come back on Sunday to try out Brillo's Sunday Vegetarian Dinner, which I'm ashamed I've never attended before.
That gemelli with kale and walnut pesto sounds vegan, doesn't it?  I mean, WALNUT pesto.  That just screams purposefully vegan.  Plus, Brillo is one of the best places in the city of Pittsburgh to get some vegan eats, which is why I totally heart it, and also, I can walk there from my apartment and I hate driving.


Now that Halloween is over, it's getting to be the time that people collect for food drives.

When I was at Giant Eagle Market District on Monday, I observed a young woman with a child who I'd guess was about 10 years old who were buying about 100 canned items for a food drive.  I was listening in on them, and the young woman was feeling very happy with herself for allowing this kid to be, like, the hero of the food drive or whatever.  And, OK, it's so cool that you donate to a food drive, and I support that fully.  BUT, let's be honest.  Canned food?  Canned soups and crappy veggies?  No.  You shouldn't donate things to a food drive that you wouldn't want to use yourself.

Like many vegans, I think a lot about food insecurity and how so many people have no choice but to eat unhealthy food.  For that reason, I have generated a list of what I believe are appropriate things to give to a food drive that are better for the recipients to have the ability to prepare meals:

1.  Grains, especially rice.  Couscous and quinoa are also great, but many people are not as familiar with them.  Also pastas are great!  Pick whole wheat ones, and maybe some gluten free!
2.  Oils, especially olive oil and canola.
3.  Canned items that you actually would use, especially beans.  Also good are canned tomatoes, chickpeas, and even coconut milk.
4.  Multivitamins, especially the chewable kind for children.
5.  Spices, especially commonly-used ones.  This includes both salt and pepper, which people will always need.
6.  Peanut butter.  If someone is allergic, he or she will not claim it from the pantry, but someone else won't be allergic and will appreciate it.
7.  Nuts of any sort.
8.  Raisins and other dried fruits.
9.  Flour, especially white whole wheat flour.  It's helpful to actually attach a note to it that says that it can be used interchangeably with all-purpose flour.
10.  Sugar for baking.
11.  Extracts, especially vanilla.
12.  Boxed mixes.  I love to give those super-easy vegan boxed mixes most grocery stores sell in their specialty aisles, especially the falafel ones.
13.  Cookbooks.  I've given a bargain copy of the book Supermarket Vegan, and I don't own this one yet, but I think Vegan on the Cheap would be ideal to give. Eat Vegan on $4 a Day sounds good also. 
14.  The unrefrigerated kinds of boxed milk.  Rice milk may be ideal.  I find people are resistant to soy or coconut or other kinds of non-dairy milk, but they're cool with rice.
15.  Veggie bouillon cubes.
16.  Toiletries, toiletries, toiletries.  I'm talking toilet paper, dish washing soup, regular bar soap, shampoo, conditioner, Band-Aids, and, ESPECIALLY, pads and tampons.  Seriously.  These things are very, very much appreciated at food pantries.
17.  Just donate money.

You may think that these things, especially the vegan cookbooks, are being too pushy about what I believe is the healthiest way to eat.  You may be right, and if it makes you uncomfortable, you need not take that direction.  But I have done quite a bit of food pantry volunteering and I know that there are too many crappy canned goods that come in but that the most-valuable things are actually OTHER non-perishable items that, for some reason, it does not occur to many people to donate.  Just think of your own pantry and what you like to use out of it, and that will help you think of what others would like and need.

But even if you give crappy canned veggies, it's better than nothing.  When I was a kid, my favorite thing was baby peas from a can.  So don't be too hard on yourselves about this.


  1. As someone who worked at a pantry last year, these are really great recommendations especially on the grains (I would add oatmeal to this) and toiletries/diapers/wipes. Food stamps and WIC can't cover those "health/sundry/laundry" purchases and they're huge expenses to low income families. Peanut butter was something we consistently had demand for, and it's a great caloric bang for your buck and great for families with children who pack lunches. When it's around $7 for a large jar that hurts, so I like to stock up and donate when it's on sale. Jelly is also a frequent request and soup.

    1. I meant to include oatmeal, and I forgot! Same with diapers and wipes. Those were always in huge demand.

      Also, maple syrup, pancake mixes, corn meal, salad dressings...


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