A pet pantry is a food bank for pets. It operates much like any of the thousands of human food banks available for individuals and families in need of a little assistance with keeping their families fed. Since Food Stamps and other assistance programs do not cover the purchase or provide pet food, many persons receiving assistance will share what little human food they have with their pets. Many admit they will not eat at all in favor of making sure their pet is fed first. This is not good for humans and pets alike. Pet pantries are there to provide this help and bridge the gap. In doing so, they create a variety of benefits.
Win #1 – Helping Families in a Time of Need.
Millions of good, hard-working American individuals and families are living paycheck to paycheck. Any disruption to this income, such as simply being sick and unable to work for a few days or losing a job due a company closure, can have an immediate and devastating effect. Or maybe it’s just an unexpected expense, like the need for a new furnace or a transmission repair on their vehicle. It doesn’t take much for someone to find themselves in need of a little help. Since most charitable food banks don’t stock pet food, and federal assistance programs like food stamps don’t cover the purchase of pet food, a pet pantry is there to help. A few bags of food is often all it takes to make a large difference. It gives the family a bit of financial relief and a bit of time while they work to get back on their feet. Most recipients only need help for 4-6 months before they are again able to afford feeding their pets.
Win #2 – Keeping Pets OUT of a Shelter
There are thousands of wonderful rescues and shelters who work hard every day to ensure the safety of pets. Most of them do great work and all of them have one objective – to have all their pets in good loving homes. Since one of the top three reasons a pet is abandoned or surrendered to a shelter is due to the financial stress of simply keeping them fed, a pet pantry is there to keep pets from even going to a shelter in the first place. It is far more economical to help feed a pet in their own home than to have them surrendered to a shelter. Here in Denver, Colorado, the Denver Dumb Friend’s League (DDFL.org) calculates it costs them over $400 to rehome a pet, and that’s even with the hundreds of volunteers giving their time and energy for no cost. (DDFL has over 1,400 volunteers.)
Win #3 – Reducing Expenses, Waste, and Keeping Pet Food Out of Landfills
Almost all the food for a pet pantry is donated by retailers and manufacturers. Retailers are prohibited, by law, from selling pet food once it has reached its expiration date. Manufacturers are unable to sell food to retailers if the expiration date is even close. Expiration dates are often arbitrary, and even when reached the food is still perfectly good for many months, even years (in the case of canned food). Sometimes the reasons for donation are as simple as a printing mishap on the bags in the factory, or a single ingredient has been changed. This food cannot be sold to stores and put on the shelves as-is, and it is cost-prohibitive to try and package again for retail sale. Many times, the manufacturer is forced to throw it away and right it off as a loss. By donating the food to a registered 501 (c) (3) charity like a pet pantry, the donor can instead receive a tax credit. Even better is this keeps the food from ending up in a landfill.
Win #4 – The Power of a Pet
The love for, and from, a pet is very powerful. Pets may not be for everyone, but for those who choose to share their life with a pet will most often put the needs of the pet before their own. Sometimes this is all the difference needed for someone facing so much hardship and pain to get up each day and keep trying. A pet provides unconditional love, and for those without a close support system, it is often only the pet that provides this companionship and sense of purpose. Without the pet many would give up. Pets may not be for everyone, but for those who love their pets like family, their pet means everything to them.
These are the reasons that attracted us to supporting pet pantries. For those that are unable to participate in foster programs, shelters, or rescues, we encourage you to look into supporting your own local pet pantry, or even starting one. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more. We’re happy to share what we know to help get you started.