There is a great emotional resonance in giving food to someone who needs it. It touches the giver as well as the one who is hungry. And on a Midnight Run it should be part of the message: "We care about you."
Sometimes that message can get a little garbled. The vast majority of member groups put a lot of care into the food they distribute, but on occasion we see, or hear reports of, a bag containing an apple, one cookie, and a "charity sandwich" (consisting of one thin slice of bologna, or a meager smear of peanut butter, between two pieces of Wonder bread). Those who have lived on the streets can tell you that a really nice bag meal, made with care, sends a message of love. And a skimpy bag meal sends another message. We realize that many groups have limited finances, but we'd much rather have groups make 80 or 90 bountiful bag meals than 150 meager ones.
So here's our guide to what makes a great sandwich:
- A substantial sandwich is what most sets apart a loving bag meal from a less desirable one. We realize that it's also the most expensive item. But there's an emotional value in getting a sandwich piled high with turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken salad or meatloaf. It truly says, "Someone is thinking of you." Variety is nice, so we ask that at least some of the sandwiches not be bologna or peanut butter (you get a lot of those in soup kitchens).
- We realize that many of you have sandwiches donated by affiliated groups. Maybe the local elementary school makes sandwiches, and for refrigeration reasons can only do PB&J. In those cases you should try to double up the sandwiches, putting two in a bag (especially if you can add the PB&J to a bag with a tuna sandwich or whatever).
- Condiments: Mayonnaise and mustard are certainly welcome. Contrary to popular belief, commercial mayo is NOT a ticking time bomb of botulism or salmonella. It will be good long after the turkey or ham on the sandwich has spoiled. If you're worried about that, you can always include mayo or mustard in little individual packets (available at some groceries, as well as places like Costco and Sam's). A little lettuce goes a long way in making a sandwich special. Avoid tomato, however, as it's too likely to make sandwich soggy.
- Extras: Bag decorations may seem trivial, but they have the power to brighten someone's day. Sometimes small kids decorate the bags used for these portable meals. Someprobably mostguys might ignore the decorations. But we guarantee that someone out there will feel touched by one of those bags. And it can help if you also mark the bags with the kind of sandwich. Life on the street doesn't have many choices, so it's nice to be asked, "Would you like a turkey or salami sandwich?"
- Safety: Please do everything necessary to ensure that food is kept refrigerated as needed. Pack bags in coolers if they're going to be in car/van for a while in warm temps. We can't take any chances on this. When you have no access to a bathroom at night, there's no such thing as a "mild" case of diarrhea.