I have now been involved in more canned food drives than one should. Whether donating to the ones in grade school, or as a worker sorting donations. They are a huge waste of energy and effort.
Think about it.
At the end, there is a recipient who goes through a small warehouse, picking out a sack of food as if they're at the grocery store.
The canned goods are sorted by type. Prior to being sorted and shelved, they were all mixed up in big bins.
The bins were filled by picking through the bags of donated items, throwing away expired items, and putting the good items into the bins.
The bags were filled by donors, who went through their own shelves of food, and picked out items to give. The bags were then carried to the sorting warehouse.
The donors got their food at the store. They had to drive there and get the food from organized shelves.
The shelves were filled by shipments from the distribution warehouse, where even larger shelves were filled with huge amounts of food.
The donors also had some kind of "warehouse" in their own house - otherwise, they wouldn't have held the surplus that they donated. People have refrigerators and pantries, because the food system has supermarkets, which have the best prices on food, if you are able to store a weeks worth of food.
Often, at these canned food drives, you see food that's some weird "off brand". These were probably originally bought at another food bank, which purchased a large shipment of food from a seller who specializes in getting rid of overstock.
So, the food was probably already through the food bank system once before. The recipient didn't want it because it was something they didn't know how to eat, like yams.
None of this makes any sense. The cans are moved here and there, and the food just gets old, until it's not edible
== A Proposal
We need to create an alternative system that's more efficient. We need local food pantries that "give away" canned/preserved and fresh foods.
It won't be "free" per-se; there needs to be some kind of rationing system where you're limited to taking only a fixed number of calories or items per week. So you'd need some kind of accounting system with electronic cards or biometric ID.
People would be encouraged to pick up food daily or every other day, rather than hoard food and store it for a week or two. This would reduce the need for refrigeration and storage space - and potential waste due to expiring foods.
The pantries would be located near homes, possibly operating out of a converted corner house, or even a traditional mini-market. Today, there are many liquor stores, but they could be converted to pantries. The owners generally only make a lower middle class income, so they can just be paid an hour or so to operate the pantry.
Inventories would be replenished daily, based on a centralized system that allocated based on demand - but also levelled the supply. So, if there's a surge in demand for bread - there would be shortages, but they'd be spread fairly.
Pricing or "taxing" could be used to discourage the taking of items that are popular, and to raise some revenues. So, if bread was running out, you could add a small fee to discourage bread hoarding and waste. Pricing would be used primarily as a market regulating mechanism rather than a way to extract profit.
This system of free food (or, really, low cost food) would not eliminate the existence of food stores. Those stores would still exist, but generally sell only specialty items, or ethnic food items, or gourmet food that isn't available at the free food stores. A small fraction of a free food store could be used for specialty foods, as well. (The commercial store would rent space from the free food store.)