A butcher-wrapped pack of chicken legs in foam trays or chicken legs shoved into sealed polybags - which would you give to a needy family? It will be produced in the same plant. It will be the same amount (4 lbs.) in each pack. Same Kosher certification. Same brand. Everything inside is the same, except the presentation. The only difference is that a pack of the butcher-wrapped costs just under $9 and the polybagged costs a bit more than $7. In other words, butcher-packed for $2.25 per pound (wholesale) versus polybagged for $1.83 per pound (wholesale).
The real question is, what does it mean when we say we are feeding people with "dignity"? Since there isn't a single butcher or supermarket that is selling chicken parts in a polybag, it is definitely culturally awkward to receive chicken in such a way. For the families receiving food from Masbia, it would be yet another stigma to overcome.
Since for Passover, we plan to distribute tens of thousands of pounds of chicken, this question is very real. It makes a big difference on the total bill, so we put the test to our clients and we had both to choose from. It turned out that there is a gender gap, with most women opting for butcher-wrapped chicken and the men generally not caring.
I'm thinking now to get the input of our generous supporters, as well. So I'm asking you to please let me know where you come down on this. I have a hunch where this will go since I know that all of our donors support feeding the hungry with dignity and would increase their donation to make it happen in a dignified way. I just want to verify it. (In addition to that, here's a little secret: most of our donors are women.)
We already submitted an outline of our order to the poultry plant, so your input on this matter is only helpful regarding our Passover order if supplied within the next 24 hours. If, however, you chime in after, we will use your input in the future.
We face dilemmas, like this one, in the kitchen every day. Your feedback is valuable to us and we will take into account your view on the situation. We hope you appreciate this exercise even if you don't end up on the prevailing side of the dilemma.
Leave your comment below. I look forward to hearing your response.
[UPDATE: Read the Results Below]
We received numerous responses with various takes on the dilemma. People generally answered in one of four ways. Many people were on the cost-saving side so that it would allow us to feed more clients. Others were for packaging with dignity. Some tried to find a compromise between the two sides. Finally, a lot of people were concerned about the environmental impact of styrofoam trays. All of these stances have merit, and I appreciate the feedback.
I went ahead and put together a grand compromise that encompasses all four concerns. While in conversation with our main vendor, we learned that they are about to get new equipment after Passover that will give us a packaged hybrid between the two options: a pouch. This option gives us the best of both worlds: the cost-savings and the packaging with dignity. The cost is very close to the polybag and the pouch is also more eco-friendly than a styrofoam tray. For Passover, the order will be split between chicken legs and ground beef. For the chicken legs, we will stay with the trays. However, for the ground beef, since it's packaged in a more symmetrical way, it will be in a poly (it will be in the shape of a huge sausage). I hope many of you who responded are happy with this compromise. Thank you for voicing your opinion. It was good to see so many of you respond and take an interest in this dilemma.
Now that the orders are placed, I need your help paying them. Starting at this time tomorrow, Masbia will be receiving deliveries of Passover food along with their bills. Click here to make your Passover donation.
Masbia was founded with the idea of feeding the needy with dignity. The balance of volume vs dignity is a constant struggle. The Forward did a story on us today focusing on the fact that we continue to do just that - feed the needy with dignity. While we do come down on the side of dignity, the pressure of volume is ever-present and that's why your input is so important.