As a parent, I have learned a lot about stuff. The stuff that fills up a home when you are not looking. Stuff that needs batteries or repair or upgrading or accessories. And I’m not a fan of it. The accumulation of physical objects drives me crazy. Some of it is inevitable, I know, but some of it is excess; the worst part about stuff is that it tricks you into thinking you need more of it. It’s easy to stop appreciating what you have and to start wishing for the things you don’t. This sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s why it’s sneaky!

We think we have come up with a solution for our family that prevents the influx of more of the unwanted, teaches values like sharing and helping, and encourages a global outlook. Every other year, instead of receiving gifts on their birthdays, the kids will ask their friends to support an organization that they (the kids) select.

My son turned 4 this year and a few weeks prior to his party, we asked him to choose who he would like to help on his birthday. To make it easier for him, we asked him if he wanted to give other kids food to eat, or if he wanted to help take care of the animals at the SPCA. He chose to support Surrey Food Bank because “snacks are so good to eat. Like bunny crackers.”

Food banks are pretty easy to donate to because many large grocery chains will have a collection bin at the front of their store, or they have the $2 donation coupons at the till. (The coupons actually work like store credit, so that if the food bank called up the grocery store needing more of a particular item, the store uses the credit that has accumulated through the generosity of customers.)

But I didn’t want to collect tins and packages and then just transfer them over to a collection bin. This would mean absolutely nothing to my 4 year old and would be a stretch of the imagination for my 6 year old. Simply saying, “This food is going to people who need it” wasn’t going to cut it. So I contacted Surrey Food Bank via their website’s contact form and received a pleasant reply within a day from Community Partnership Coordinator, Kuldip Ardawa.

Kuldip was happy to provide a tour of the facilities to my family! With a tour date set, we did a big grocery shop one week prior with the $200 collected. The short time frame between the shopping and the delivery would make the connection more clear. We consulted their Most Needed Items list to guide us which made the experience easier and actually more satisfying, knowing we were really filling a specific need. Did you know that 42% of Surrey Food Bank’s users are children and babies? We learned this and so much more on our hands-on tour.

Here are some shots of us selecting items:

When we arrived at the food bank, one of the volunteers handed us a trolley, and the hubs and kids unloaded the trunk:

As we crossed the street toward the building, we saw some people lining up for their groceries, including a young boy in a superhero costume who my son spotted right away. Kuldip led us to the warehouse area that housed a huge donated freezer where the perishable items donated by farmers and grocery stores (for example, yogurts with close expiration dates) are kept. Further into the warehouse were the non-perishable items. I was impressed with the organization and cleanliness of the facility and I learned this was largely thanks to volunteers.

I took a picture of this flat of baby formula because this is a 6 week supply for the little ones who rely on the food bank.

So if you think the food bank must be doing well with all the collection bins out there, and especially the big surge of donations at Christmastime…just know that the need is great. And it’s year-round.

An interesting thing I learned was that all the dry goods (pasta, rice, cereals, grains etc) are all unpackaged then measured into bags of equal proportions. Kuldip explained to the children that this was in fairness to everyone.

Diapers are also sorted this way, and all baby items are held in the Tiny Bundles area where parents can stop and collect what they need.

When people come with their government-issued tickets that indicate the family size and specific needs, a volunteer accepts the ticket and exchanges it for a corresponding pre-packed bag of non-perishable items. The perishable items such as breads and vegetables are collected at a separate area.

Here are the tickets from the day we were there. Keep in mind that each ticket represents a family, not an individual:


If you are interested in volunteering your time at Surrey Food Bank, please contact them. You must be 16 years of age to volunteer on your own, or 10 with an adult.

Here’s my daughter inspecting a can to make sure it was safe to distribute. Cans that have been dented to the point of metal breaking make the food unsafe:

And my son sorting a can into the proper bin:


I would love to hear about experiences you have had like this with your family. We are on the lookout for more ideas, in particular to be able to go that one step further than simply collecting donations (although doing that alone is certainly helpful!).

And here we are – the 5 of us <3

I will be writing more about my philosophy on charity in upcoming posts. I don’t believe in a line separating the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ but rather a circle that encompasses us all.