By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 16, 2023.
It can be spread on toast, paired with jelly, eaten by the spoonful, or added to a stir-fry. Peanut butter; a fan favourite and, more importantly, a nutritious addition to food bank hampers. Which is why Cynthia Mansfield and the team at Avail CPA have been collecting jars of the good stuff every year at Christmas for nearly a decade.
Mansfield, Director of First Impressions, says that as long as she’s been working for the accounting firm, they have done a drive for non-perishable goods to support the Interfaith Food Bank.
After a while though, she began to wonder if their efforts couldn’t be more focused.
“I was noticing the food we were bringing in wasn’t necessarily nutritious.” Upon contacting the Interfaith Food Bank, she learned the value of the creamy, protein-rich, and versatile staple in most pantries.
By the end of her conversation with the director of Interfaith Food Bank at the time, Mansfield was convinced.
“She went on with all the benefits of peanut butter, and the kicker was, is that anybody that gets food hampers only gets one jar of peanut butter every second month.” The thought of something that is such a useful staple being limited to alternating months was enough to start what is now a legacy of peanut butter.
The Avail Peanut Butter Drive has become a community initiative over the years, with clients, past employees, and other branches of the company all bringing jars of peanut butter to contribute to the collection.
“We had an accounting firm a number of years ago who showed up unexpectedlyâ€¦ and they brought a wheelbarrow in with peanut butter jars,” Mansfield explains.
“Somebody at their office was gone on vacationâ€¦ the thing was to fill the doorway to his office with peanut butter jars so when he got back, he couldn’t get in his office because it was full of peanut butter jars, and that’s how they collected a ton of peanut butter for us.”
Though the Peanut Butter Drive, like so many things, was put on pause from 2020-2022, they’re back at it.
“With a bang,” she says.
The current jar count sits at 171, but with days left before the scheduled pick up by Interfaith Food Bank, that number is sure to grow. And of course, it’s not necessarily limited to butter of the peanut variety, Mansfield says they welcome other forms of non-perishable butters too, she herself occasionally slipping in a jar of Nutella for one lucky recipient.
Danielle McIntyre, director of the Interfaith Food Bank, says while some of the most needed items change depending on what they receive in donations, however, she adds, “those most wanted items are typically going to be the more expensive items like peanut butter or cereal, or canned meats and canned fruits, baby food,”
However she explains, “anything that is of higher nutritional value tends to be a little more expensive.”
“We love it when groups are doing community collections,” says MacIntyre. Adding that there’s an added benefit “if they can focus on having high protein or fibre content, low sugar and salt content.”
Those interested in knowing what specific items are needed are welcome to contact the Interfaith Food Bank directly, additionally, a list can be found on their website.
McIntyre says that for those who are unsure what to donate, cash is always a great help and can be leveraged to buy more than the average shopper thanks to partnerships. It allows them to purchase most effectively and ensure they can supply perishables when needed without worrying about expiration dates and waste.
McIntyre says of Avail “they’re great supporters and this particular food drive is a fun one! We look forward to it ever year, and we love the example that they’re setting for other businesses in the community.”