After Bible study on Tuesday monring, I try to check our church's small food pantry. If new food donations have come in, I shelve them. If any bags of food have been given away, I bag up some more food. (I try to keep a few bags on hand. Our pantry doesn't have specific hours, but occasionally persons will stop by the church asking for some help with groceries or someone on staff will become aware of a family in need. Either way, its nice for the staff to have bags of food that are already pre-packed. I try to ensure that each group of bags have a few meals that can be put together from the contents of the bag as well as a few pantry staples like peanut butter, jelly, and cereal.)
Usually, it only takes me ten to fifteen minutes to shelve donations and restock bags of food. I have a list of food items that go into each group of bags, so I can be efficient and consistant. This week, however, I walked into the little room that holds our food pantry and immediately noticed that there were several bags of new donations as well as one group of bags which had been given away. I stepped into the room and opened one of the cabinets, and thats when the smell hit me. Now, I don't have a very good sense of smell, so an odor has to be really strong for me to notice it as all. I also am not very good at precisely identifying the source or the type of smell. So, I couldn't tell what exactly might be making the odor, I just knew something smelled really bad. We don't have any means of refridgeration, so all our food items are canned or boxed non-perishables, still, something smelled really, really bad.
I began pulling boxed food out first, thinking something must have gotten wet and turned nasty. Terrible images started filling my head. I won't share any of them here. You're welcome. Not finding anything, I started checking experiation dates...which I didn't expect would lead anywhere, since I though another volunteer had told me she did that at Thanksgiving. Sadly, I began finding post dated food. I pulled it out, but still couldn't find the source of the odor.
Frustrated, I went to the office and got help. The women who came to help identified the smell from the hallway. It was the drain in the floor of the room, and had nothing to do with the food pantry at all. Some bleach was poured down the drain, which seemed to resolve that problem.
But by now, I had emptied a good portion of the cabinet, and had found a few past-dated food items. I decided to just continue to clean out the cabinet and to check all the sell-by dates. I brought Sweetling in to help, and had Toa of Boy take past-date items out to set them on a table in the little atrium area near the secondary entrance to the church.
As we were working, pastor walked by. I heard him asking Toa if Toa was setting up a store. Without missing a beat, Toa answered, "$4.99! Anything on the table, $4.99!" Pastor came up the back hall to find me and ask me about new shelving solutions. He also told me of the interchange between himself and Toa. As he was walking back out, he passed by Toa's table again. This time Toa offered to sell him anyting from the table for just a dollar an item.
It took us two hours, but we checked every item, reorganized the cabinet, shelved the new donations, and repackaged some bags of food. We placed a sign on Toa's table, which was beautifully organized and arranged to display his wares. We put a sign on the table, "past-date; please take." I can't put the past-date food in bags to give out as part of our food pantry ministry, but I didn't want to throw the food away either. But, as long as people know that the food was past its sell by date, and elected to take them anyway, then I can still use the food to be a blessing to someone.
It was well past our normal lunchtime by the time we were done. We still had some errands to run, and they had both been such a big help, so we splurged and went to Wendy's for lunch. We took our food to go, and ate on the lawn outside the library.
And thus, Toa's first entrepreneur enterprise came to a glorious end.