Winter Blues [NOT 28/11/21]

Hi, friends!

I hope your weekends went well and you’re ready for Monday. I’m not, but that’s nothing unusual. 🙂

Topic of the NOT is “things related to winter prep/support.” Reminders to do things like check the insulation around your doors – stick-on weatherstripping is like $4 a roll at hardware stores, and it can make a massive difference in draftiness around room with an exterior door. There’s been plenty of places I have lived where the windows and doors had such bad insulation that I’d pick up extra towels at yard sales or goodwill and roll them up to sit on windowsills or on the floor along the doorway.

If you have ceiling fans (which I hope you do, those are my favorite things to make rooms more comfortable) – make sure they’re turning clockwise in winter to pull cool air up and push down the warmer air at the ceiling level.

Also, it’s a been a while since I’ve brought this up, but if you can, please consider regularly donating to food pantries or organizations that distribute food in your communities.

Winter is worse for food insecurity for many families because you have higher utility costs due to the cold weather. So that means less money available for food. Plus right before Christmas, kids are sent home for a few weeks and if they’re getting one or two meals a day at school, that probably won’t be available until classes resume. Snow days also can be a problem for kids having enough to eat.

In general, food pantries can do the most with money donations. They can buy things in bulk for distribution. However, if it’s a smaller group managing it, or something informal like a mutual aid group, actual goods might be preferred. Please keep in mind that things which require other items to make are less useful. For example, the powdered mac and cheese (like Kraft) boxes might be cheaper at the store so you think – oh I can buy 3 of those for 1 box of the liquid mac and cheese (like Velveeta) boxes. But people need milk and butter to make the powdered kind. Or like Hamburger Helper is great if you have meat and sometimes milk. Also I would recommend things like powerbars, kind bars, etc. People who are food insecure typically work, but might not have anything they can take to work to eat on a break/meal. Grab and go things like those pre-packaged peanut butter crackers or protein bars are good options.

Finally, consider poking around and seeing what options are even available to people in your community. For example, where I am, Operation Food Search gives out boxes of food 2 Tuesdays a month, from 10:30am-1pm. You need a car to take your boxes with you. You need to provide an address to prove you live in the area. Both of these are barriers to access for many unhoused folks. Or if you have a job at that time, you’re shit out of luck. We have another local group who hands out boxes on Thursday afternoons at another location from like 3-5pm. Again, you need a car or a way to carry potentially heavy boxes to your home. Salvation Army near me used to have a food pantry where you could show up 1 day a week and get stuff, but again you had to prove you live in the community. They also stopped during covid, so that’s pretty useless now. Turns out there are a few churches in my community that run informal pantries out of the church offices, but (1) you have to be there when the church office is open and (2) you have to know it exists in the first place, since it’s not really advertised.

All of which is to say, yes, options might exist but they’re fucking complicated* and many people can’t access these resources. If you can convince your community to set up a free-standing outdoor food pantry, please do. We set them up at a bus stop shelter (someone donated a few old shelving units), at a pavillion in a park (again, donated old shelving unit) and a few other places. The volume of food that goes through these 5 spots given the size and makeup of my community just shows how much help is needed outside of the other options “available” in the area.

*similarly, unless Missouri and lots of other states suddenly became less assholic about it, WIC benefits are fucking stupidly painful to navigate. The states set limits on things like food packaging size and price. In Missouri, soymilk is covered if you get original plain flavored 8th Continent brand or Walmart brand, but almond, coconut, rice, and cashew milk aren’t covered. WIC will cover eggs, but only if they’re white, large, and sold in the 1 dozen package. And none of those fancy eggs like free-range, organic, or *GASP* brown.



  1. What an excellent post! Thank you.

    • For me, the biggest surprise was having to “prove” the person lived in the community to qualify for food at a pantry. Like, we got homeless people here. Not as many as some other areas in St. Louis, but like those folks need to eat, too. Just because they don’t have an address or know one to use, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to access these basic resources!

  2. Thank you for the reminder. You are absolutely right, money is better than goods. But if you’re donating to one of the smaller organizations or free standing donation boxes I suggest shelf stable milk, and individual canned goods that don’t require a can opener, like beefaroni, franks and beans, or Vienna Sausage. They may not be the most nutritious food but a full belly is better than an empty one. Many people rely on microwaves for heating their food. Children left alone at home while their parents are working for instance.

    • Yes! Shelf-stable or powdered milk is also very much needed.

      And yes – things like sphagettios and easy mac go faster in the local minipantry than canned green beans, etc. For the exact reason you mentioned – most folks have access to a microwave and kids can operate them, too.

  3. I agree that cash is king for food banks. I keep reading about people complaining about how hard it is to do things like donate six leftover sandwiches from an office lunch to a food bank, when they don’t ask themselves what, exactly a food bank should do. Spend an hour of staff time to drive to an office to pick up a few old sandwiches that can’t even be served until dinner, if at all?

    A case of canned tomatoes works, but a lot of people want to use pantries as garbage disposals for stale donuts. They should plan better, buy less and donate the cash savings.

    • Counterpoint – mutual aid networks compared to dedicated food pantries.

      People don’t necessarily know where to look when they have a surplus of food and it could be redistributed. Like the STL mutual aid group? People can post in their facebook page things like “hey we have 4 dozen gallons of milk, does someone have a fridge they can store it in and people who need it?” and usually find a home for it within an hour.

      For example, Sikhs of St Louis is a local mutual aid group that does tons of community outreach. And what makes them different than many of the other groups is they always had a lot of fruit and veggies for distribution. When they had extra, they’d blast out that they had food if people wanted it. Then we’d see it, reach out and find out if a school or church had fridge space, coordinate pickup/dropoff, and then we’d have fresh fruit and veg to add to our Thursday boxes. All of this happens outside of “traditional” food pantries like Operation Food Search, Second Harvest, etc.

      It’s just a matter of knowing how to coordinate.

  4. We just donated to the local SACA. They provide 200 meals a day, 365 days a year.

    • Oh that’s awesome! 200 meals a day is massive!

  5. fitting picture as its snowing here….and the whole country immediately forgot how to drive

    good thing im cycling to work…the roads are mental today

    anyways…did you know we dont have school meals here? always seemed a little odd to me….i mean…its not like we cant afford to have them here

    also the food bank got moved from easily accessable in the city center to a hard to find cubby hole in the industrial estate waaaaaaay on the outskirts….

    i really do think we hate the poor in this country

    • I am very surprised about the lack of school meals!

      Did your country sneak in some of our “bootstraps!!” loving assholes to fuck up the social aid programs?

      • technically i think your bootstraps loving assholes originally came from over here abouts

        far as im aware we’ve never had school meals here…at least not since i went to school in the 80s…lol

        every now and then the idea gets floated and they’ll have a trial in a few school..and discover kids eat healthier if you provide them with healthy foods…aaaand then itll fizzle out and go nowhere coz ermagerd too complicated to feed everyone as some are vegetarian or need halal food and hey wait whos paying for this?

        • Ugghhh I hate that excuse! All they need to do is make vegan food (and skip ingredients that contain alcohol) and then make dairy or meat products as basically sides. Like it wouldn’t be hard at all to accommodate most dietary plans.

          • it really wouldnt be hard…but still…i doubt it will ever happen here

            probably at least partially coz of the voting olds who turned out just fine without school lunches thank you very much

            its kind of amazing how much resistance there is to getting anything done over here

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