A Food Bank Indirectly Tells People to Stop Praying About Hunger and Give Them Donations Instead

So here’s what I *think* happened with the Alameda County Community Food Bank (in California). They’re not an atheist group by any means. But even they must know that praying to alleviate hunger isn’t helpful to anyone.

Starving people don’t need your god’s help. They need something to eat.

But the food bank, unlike all of us, probably has no desire to be politically incorrect and tell people “Stop talking to your god and just donate some non-perishables.” They don’t want to get embroiled in a controversy. So they had to find a way to tell people to actually give them food instead of praying.

And here’s what they came up with:

If that was their thought process, I’d say that’s a nice way to work around the issue :)

And, as far as I know, there haven’t been any complaints!

Here’s an even better idea: Don’t send them food.

Just give them money to do whatever they need to do because they know what they need the most.

(via Reddit)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Trina

    They did a nice job of phrasing that, I think.  Hope it works well.   Food banks everywhere are in great need, which means that those who use them are missing meals. 

    One note: to those who give food – please don’t just clean the expired stuff out of your cabinets at home.   If the food’s good enough to give, it’s good enough to eat yourself, and if it isn’t, nobody should be eating it.   My disability income qualifies me for food bank use, but I’ve avoided it since I got food poisoning …

    • Anonymous

      Exactly.  Normally when we donate we go the canned food route.  This entails going to Sam’s club with a Two Wheel cart and stacking it up with the same canned food stuffs we use at home.  Usually vegetables and soup, mostly decided by the *kids*.  If they will eat it, chances are anyone will be able to use it.

    • Anonymous

      The same thing goes for clothes: don’t just give away crap.
      If I have a pair of jeans that are torn (I’m short and my jeans tend to tear at the bottom), I tend to just throw them away or give them to housing non-profits like Habitat for Humanity, who will then use them as insulation for homes.
      As much as I’d love to sell some of my nice old clothes on Ebay, I figure I can make someone’s day by giving it to a thrift store or a homeless shelter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mujica.alex Alejandro Mujica

    I like where they were going with this, but candlelight vigils are held for hunger? That’s a new one on me.

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy2q

    Good for them.  It’s high time someone say it.

    Also, I second Trina’s statement.  There’s nothing magnanimous about giving inedible or barely edible food.   

  • M G

    As a long-time supporter of our local food pantry/soup kitchen/homeless shelter, I agree that sometimes money is the best gift. Although it may seem impersonal, or more likely to be subverted, cash allows the shelter to pool donations and purchase items that are undersupplied in the food donations. Often, they can get wholesale rate or bulk discounts as well, maximizing the power of the donation.  And talk to the staff! They often need NON-food items too–I’ve donated cleaning supplies, personal care items, and even socks and underclothing when requested.

  • Brian Macker

    When I was a kid trying to make sense of this prayer thing I deduced that people prayed when normal human action would be ineffectual. Why ask for all powerful help if it wasn’t required and I didn’t see people getting god to pick them up from work when the car broke down. In fact when force into Sunday school when aske d about this they said “of course” althuough they hadn’t actually volunteered that in front of everyone, or made it part of the curriculum. They did actively teach that one should not pray for either harm, nor selfish petty stuff. They also taught that it was like uncertain if a prayer would be granted but that god heard them all. To which my immediate thought was, “Then how do you know”. Which lead to the inevitable Doubting Thomas gambit of stop questioning because it is a sin, and you don’t want to be a bad boy.

    I was smarter than that though. I decided they were all deluded. So I went home and repeated the most ludicrous of their claims, proudly as if I was taking it in. Like that if you fly to high to the sun it gets hotter. Or I’d make plain what the implication was and report back to my parents. Like “Jesus is a zombie, Dad, coooool. … And the priest does magic where he can summon a piece of his flesh for us to cannibalize.”. I’d come home, “Hey, mom praying is like gambling.”

    Not exact examples as this was 45 years ago.

    They pulled me out.

    I did notice that many did not figure out when or why prayer should be done. Which is never, of course, but I mean in the context of the false claims being made. Instead they’d pray for petty selfish stuff like Tebow does. What’s more selfish than wasting gods time on winning you a game you obviously don’t deserve to win if you have to pray about it.

    Forgive me Tebow if instead you are praying for god to give you opponents an edge so you have a bigger challenge. That certainly would make a nice mock. Some known atheist on a competing team should do that. They should pretend to openly pray in an exaduraded way, like in one of those evangelical churches complete with speaking in tongues, then when asked about it say he was praying for the other team because they were wo unworthy. Works no matter who wins.

    Of course every ap

    • Brian Macker

      Ignore the last sentence fragment. I’m on an IPad and the interface doesn’t have a scroll bar. I couldn’t see that or scroll to see it. Quite annoying.

      • Anonymous

        If you don’t have this year’s iOS software on it, you can scroll within a text window using two fingers within the text box.  The new iOS seems to have improved it so it is a normal one finger scroll.

    • D Lowrey

      I used to face the same type of people when I was in church as well…probably at the same time you were. What I found as an adult was questions are good and isn’t any type of sin…they get answers to things which needed answered. Where these people hate questions is when it disrupts their world and their view of the world. Because of this…they call anything which disrupts their world a sin. Raining on their parade is sinful because they don’t want or need the answer since their self-serving god isn’t big enough to give them answers.

      • Brian Macker

        Yep, it’s self confirming nonsense. I in my early 50′s BTW.

    • Smeargle99

      This is awsome

  • Charles Black

    Is it me or are they being inconsistent when they say “wishful thinking won’t alleviate hunger” but they mention candlelight vigils?
    Don’t candlelight vigils happen to belong in the magic think category?

    • Jess

      Um, that’s exactly where they put them. Good Intentions, Wishful Thinking, Candlelight Vigils all next to Won’t alleviate hunger.

      • monyNH

        Yeah, it took me a second to figure out what was going on there, too. They could have made that part a little clearer (graphically speaking), but otherwise it’s an excellent poster.

      • Charles Black

        Oh thanks.

  • Michael D

    “Excuse me, sir! Can you direct us to the naval base in Alameda? It’s where they keep the nuclear wessels.”

    • Rich Wilson

      Getting further OT, it always bugged the heck out of me that Chekov was unable to say ‘V’, which is an extremely common sound in Russian.  As in, Checkov, and replaced it with ‘W’ which doesn’t exist in Russian.

      • http://truth-tables.com James Hotelling

        During a semester in Germany, I had the opportunity to ask some Germans about their English. Specifically, why they pronounced the letter v as a w, despite the lack of any phonetic parallel to the English w sound in the German language. They have the letter, but it is also pronounced as a v. Turns out, when Germans learn English, they get so used to substituting the w sound that they just find it easier to always do it that way, and not worry about the v/w distinction.

        And I guess when Star Trek writers hear “Russian accent”, they just find it easier to insert “random European accent” on a letter-by-letter basis. Or something.

        • Wookie Monster

          I my experience, most Germans (and other continental Europeans) actually do the opposite thing and pronounce the w as a v (“ve vish you a pleasant journey”). What you describe must be very rare.

    • Anonymous

      Yes.

  • cermak_rd

    Absolutely on the need for cash donations. The Greater Chicago Food Depository sent a rep to my workplace last Oct and showed how  by pooling monetary donations, they are able to go the wholesale route and buy a lot of food.

    We were able, through work, to sign up for monthly donations. I guess you could say auto-donations isn’t as good of charity, because I’m not really thinking about it when I do it, but it seems as though it goes farther that way.

  • Anonymous

    Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. – by Anonymous

  • Erik D Red

    I like the wording of this.  It doesn’t directly attack religion, which just makes people more defensive.  It does imply it, and can make people think.  Prayer isn’t any different than wishful thinking, after all, and this clearly implies that anything intangible won’t help.

    Might never get through to the fundies, but it may push the less crazy to think.

  • http://www.suburbansweetheart.com/ Suburban Sweetheart

    All I can say to this is… amen!

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Love it! That’s pretty much what I would expect to see in Alameda County (I’m a few counties over), and I’d be extremely surprised if anyone complained. It ain’t exactly the Bible Belt here, LOL.

  • http://twitter.com/hotincleveland Truly S.

    I think they handled this quite well. They actually didn’t say “Donate INSTEAD OF praying.” They simply said that prayer alone ain’t gonna do it. If you want hungry people fed, it does no harm to pray for them as well if you wish, but what is guaranteed to feed them more quickly is just plain giving them food. Or preferably, as some have pointed out here, giving money to organizations that can stretch it the farthest to buy them the kind of food people like to eat (as opposed to your worst pantry castoffs).

  • http://www.facebook.com/renato.santis Renato Santis

    Are you starving?
    How can you be sure that you’re not because someone prayed for you?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    When my Daughter was in elementary school, time and again there were drives to collect food, soap and toiletries, etc. for soldiers or other groups.  Each time, I’d go to the organizer, show my wholesale license, and offer to drop-ship supplies instead of buying items at retail and paying exorbitant shipping and sometimes customs costs.  For example, soldiers in a unit in Iraq were supposedly having trouble getting soap.  I could have shipped them cases of excellent olive oil based soap directly from Greece, but no dice.  These people don’t care about the end result of their charity, they just want the self-congratulation of tossing that random item in the collection box.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    When my Daughter was in elementary school, time and again there were drives to collect food, soap and toiletries, etc. for soldiers or other groups.  Each time, I’d go to the organizer, show my wholesale license, and offer to drop-ship supplies instead of buying items at retail and paying exorbitant shipping and sometimes customs costs.  For example, soldiers in a unit in Iraq were supposedly having trouble getting soap.  I could have shipped them cases of excellent olive oil based soap directly from Greece, but no dice.  These people don’t care about the end result of their charity, they just want the self-congratulation of tossing that random item in the collection box.

  • Public Health Student

    Interesting article. I am an intern at a food bank in rural Washington. In my time here, I have realized how disgusting the food is that comes through. Want to make a change? Donate food that is not past the expiration date, food that is healthy, and food you would eat yourself. I’m fed up with all the Top Ramen and boxed dinners that come through. And STOP SENDING IN SWEETS! No wonder the lower class higher prevalence of diabetes! If you’re tired for paying for their health care, then start by donating healthy foods that will help control their weight, therefore curing their Type II Diabetes. 

  • Sleepwalkin27@yahoo.com

    You’re kind of an asshole.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X