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Food bank prices: Donate locally to help keep costs down

Monday - 12/5/2011, 6:05am  ET

What food from Capital Area Food Bank costs

WTOP's Nathan Hager reports.

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Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Most have heard how important it is to buy locally. When it comes to giving to food banks -- donating locally might be just as important. In these tough times, everyone is trying to do more with less and area food banks are no different.

Food pantries, like ACTS (Action in Community Through Service) in Dumfries, buy their groceries from the Capital Area Food Bank.

"Unfortunately for us the prices that are offered from Capital Area Food Bank are often higher or the same price as in the grocery store," says Rebekah McGee, emergency assistance program director for ACTS.

She says ACTS can get better deals buying at local stores, so it is not buying a lot from the Capital Area Food Bank. But she says from time to time the Capital Area Food Bank does have really good deals on things, far discounted products. She says ACTS takes full advantage on those deals.

Also the Capital Area Food Bank does offer what's called "salvage" which costs about 19 cents a pound, says McGee. Those are items such as dented cans or boxes. She says a lot of times it is snack foods or crackers. McGee says you can order those items for far cheaper, pennies on the dollar.

"We don't want to compete to feed the hungry that's not the point," says Frances Harris, ACTS executive director. "But we want to do it as cheaply as we can. You know we have to be good stewards of the money people give us."

Those who donate locally, help food pantries cut out the middle man.

"It doesn't seem as efficient to send your food somewhere that's far away for the people in your own backyard to have to purchase to bring it back into your own backyard," McGee says.

ACTS does rely heavily on the Capital Area Food Bank as its distributor for USDA food.

"It's a whole other bag of groceries, that a family that's qualified is able to walk out the door with when they come in for assistance," McGee says.

Capital Area Food Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Lynn Brantley says it generally charges just 19-cents a pound to distribute donated food to ACTS and about 700 other organizations.

"It would be hard pressed to go to Giant and get food at 19 cents a pound," Brantley says.

Non-donated food, from grocery stores, however, does come at a premium, Brantley says.

WTOP's Nathan Hager contributed to this story. Follow Nathan and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)