Local view: Make your holiday centerpiece a food donationDo you find yourself in the throes of holiday party planning? Have you put much thought into the centerpieces? I hope not, and here’s why: More and more of our neighbors are finding it difficult to stretch out their grocery budget, having more month than money. These shortfalls are putting tremendous pressure on local food shelves. Ever wonder how you can help? Centerpieces.
By: Roxanne Wilme, Duluth News Tribune
Do you find yourself in the throes of holiday party planning? Have you put much thought into the centerpieces? I hope not, and here’s why: More and more of our neighbors are finding it difficult to stretch out their grocery budget, having more month than money. These shortfalls are putting tremendous pressure on local food shelves. Ever wonder how you can help? Centerpieces.
Most of us have attended functions with large, decorative pieces in the middles of the tables. Sometimes you can’t see over or around them, and people even argue over who is going to take them home. What if you used the opportunity instead to give something away, something worthwhile, like food?
Last year I had the privilege of helping to plan a holiday event for Minnesota’s lodging association. Instead of purchasing fragrant greens or sparkly baubles for the centers of the tables, we bought cases and cases of nonperishable foods that we could donate after the event.
We thought about how much we should spend on something like this and set out to find donors. It didn’t take long to find two businesses to sponsor us. We bought plain baskets from a local craft store and some tissue to decorate them so they would still be festive. Armed with an extremely detailed spreadsheet, I took to the aisles of Sam’s Club and purchased a flatbed cart full of food. I made a small card to be displayed by each basket, explaining the canned goods and thanking the sponsors.
Everyone loved the idea. No one had to stretch over or around to have a conversation at the table. No one argued about who got to take home the centerpiece. That was all prearranged with a local food shelf. When it was all said and done we donated more than 400 pounds of canned goods to help feed our neighbors in Minnesota.
One of the biggest benefits of doing this is it will get easier each year. Once you purchase the baskets, they’re yours. You can use them throughout the year for similar or very different occasions. And having the spreadsheet made out already, it’s easy to look over what was done the previous year and to do a quick cost comparison on current prices.
Feedback after the event regarding the centerpieces was very positive. One suggestion was to include some cold-weather accessories along with the foods. That sounded like a great idea, so each basket this year will include handmade hats, mittens, scarves, etc., from one of the member hotels.
Another benefit of repeating this experiment: It will cost less this year since we already paid for the baskets. That cost savings will allow for 100 to 200 pounds of food, give or take a few cases. That means just one holiday party will yield about 600 pounds of food to help feed hungry Minnesotans.
Wondering how you can help? Talk to the people planning your parties. It doesn’t have to be just at the holidays; people need help all year long. Take a look at the centerpiece portion of your party budget. How much food do you think you could buy with that amount? I think you’d be surprised!
Roxanne Wilmes is a freelance writer and consultant with Wilmes Hospitality LLC. She holds degrees in political science and city planning, has worked on political campaigns for 27 years, served two terms on the News Tribune editorial board, and is a past precinct chairwoman and delegate for the Republican Party. She can be reached at email@example.com.