how should I make food for campaign office people?
October 24, 2016 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I can't do phonebanking or canvassing, for many reasons, but I want to help out the people helping get out the vote, and it looks like the best way would be for me to make food for them. The only part of this plan that I know how to execute is the actual cooking part; I have too many questions about the logistics because I'm anxious and/but I want to help. I'm in SF, so anyone who knows about the SF campaign office in specific is extra welcome, but it's probably similar to elsewhere.

I was thinking to probably bring muffins (banana walnut, unless I should avoid nuts?) and hummus (with a bunch of precut vegetables); are these likely to be useful and convenient foods, and is there anything else I should bring? How many people should I expect to be bringing food to?

Do I need to let them know ahead of time, or do I just show up with a bunch of food? How the heck do you transport muffins, anyway, given that I can probably assume I'm not getting the containers back?

I'm in SF and it seems the nearest office, on Van Ness, (or should I go elsewhere?) is far enough away that I'd like to bike to it; will it be possible to bring my bike (covered in quick-steal components) in with me to wherever I deliver the food? (I can walk, otherwise, but it'd be nice if it's only an hour there and back rather than two.) What times should I aim to deliver the food around?

I have plenty of free time, and I like cooking, so it's not a problem if this takes a long time.

I think the overall question is "What is the overarching script for bringing food to campaign offices?". I'm extremely nervous (incoherent) when I don't know how social interactions will go, so though I'll probably be able to do something without filling in these blanks, it'll be much smoother if I have more of idea of what I'm expected to do.
posted by you could feel the sky to Food & Drink (13 answers total)
Call your nearest campaign office and offer to pay for a big takeout order. Ask about dietary restrictions, allergies, etc.

It's unlikely that people at a campaign office would accept homemade muffins from some random stranger.
posted by Sara C. at 1:19 PM on October 24, 2016 [11 favorites]

Pretty much ANY food will be welcomed and eaten quickly! So feel free to go nuts and make whatever you want!

Every campaign office I've ever made food for just had me show up whenever. Just make sure you know what their office hours are and you'll be fine.

Around here, I can get the bakery section in the grocery store to either give me or sell to me the cardboard boxes they use for cupcakes and cakes. Just ask the next time you go, I think. If you can't do that or they won't accommodate you, you can order bakery supplies online.

Aim to deliver food around meal times if you can. If not, they're ALWAYS snacking/in need of snacks in the office. I PROMISE you, the food you bring will not go uneaten!

As for what to say, you can literally just walk in and say to the first person you see, "I wanted to help out so I made you all some food! Where should I put it?" and then see how happy everyone is!

You got this!
posted by cooker girl at 1:20 PM on October 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Any time you have a situation like this, wonderful, well-meaning people bring all sorts of sweets and snacks and baked goodies. This is great. Muffins are great and delicious. But for anyone on the receiving end of food gifts, there are always muffins and cookies. (They're relatively simple to make and easy to transport, it makes sense.)

As a frequent volunteer for things, I'd suggest if you have the capability to make and transport something a little more substantial and savory, I think that would go over extremely well. Maybe mini quiches (include a card with heating instructions) or a big thing of chili.

By all means, if muffins are what you can and want to make, do that. But if you enjoy cooking and have an idea for something that could be more meal-like, I know it will be appreciated.

(On preview, this presumes that the office accepts outside food; definitely call and check first! Buying non-pizza takeout is a really good suggestion if you run into that barrier.)
posted by phunniemee at 1:25 PM on October 24, 2016 [5 favorites]

Only sort of in answer to your question, but following up on phunniemee's point, I made lots and lots of foil-wrapped vegetarian and vegan burritos for folks doing GOTV work on election night back in 2008, and they went over really well -- but that wasn't delivered to a campaign office, but to someone's house that was serving as the organization point for that group. Check with the campaign office, of course, to see what will work for them, but that's another idea. They transport easily in cardboard boxes and stay warm pretty well (or can be heated in a real oven).
posted by redfoxtail at 1:42 PM on October 24, 2016

Best answer: Call and say, "I'd like to help and I love to cook- if I made muffins could I bring them in? If not, ask "Is there another way to help?" If yes, ask "Great thanks, what's your name?"

When you arrive, say, "Hi! I'm ___, I called yesterday and spoke with ___ on the phone. I'm a huge (candidate) supporter- I wanted to thank you all for your hard work- so I made a big batch of (flavour) muffins to keep you all energized!"

Muffins can be transported in large ziploc bags. You can generously butter or cooking spray the cups so the bottoms of them come out slightly crispy and firm- depending ion your recipe, that can mean no need for paper muffin cups, and less mess for the eater.

I find smaller sizes go over better than bigger sizes for baked goods- less waste, and people can always have two!

100% do NOT use any nuts, seeds, or nut oils at all. People dropping crumbs that contain nut residue will make the whole office life-threateningly dangerous to anyone with allergies- even a smidge of peanut grease on someone's hand that gets inadvertently transferred onto a doorknob or phone can cause a life-threatening reaction.

If it's easy to make, a gluten-free, or a vegan option, would go over well- cornmeal perhaps? Chocolate is beloved too, of course. Semi-sweet chocolate chips are often vegan.

Include a small card introducing yourself, include your email address (makes people feel safer if they know they can find you) and a full list of the ingredients for any allergic people.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:43 PM on October 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Or sandwich makings for others to put together such as a loaf of pre-buttered bread, some sliced deli meats, sliced cheeses, sliced tomato, bag of lettuce etc, and some pickles or something.
Working the phones, one needs protein as well as carbs.
posted by Thella at 1:44 PM on October 24, 2016

At my local campaign office there is actually a volunteer who coordinates food deliveries for the staff, organizing everyone who wants to send food so that one day they don't get like 20 pizzas and 30 Jimmy John's subs and the next three days nothing at all. So first you should definitely call them up and ask if there's anyone already doing that and if so how can you get in touch with them.

A lot of campaign offices also have wishlists of non-food (and non-perishable food) items that they are in need of, so you could also call and ask about that. I made a lot of friends at my local office by delivering paper coffee cups, a couple pounds of coffee, and a random assortment of non-perishable junk food. I asked them what they needed and they were like OMG COFFEE PLZ!!!!!! and also cups to drink it out of (paper because they had a lot of people coming in and out and wanted to be able to offer coffee), so coffee they got.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:45 PM on October 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm looking to find a contact number for the SF office; I've found one associated with the SF for Hillary facebook group, but didn't reach anyone when I (well, my partner) called. Going through only yields a form to have a private meeting with a local organizer, which doesn't seem right for this? If anyone knows the right number to call and can message me, I'd appreciate it.

I definitely get the point about more-meal-ish food being useful, and fortunately I have a really good vegan chili, so I'm totally fine making chili instead of muffins.
posted by you could feel the sky at 1:51 PM on October 24, 2016

Vegan chili is a GREAT idea !
posted by pintapicasso at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2016

One of my favorite memories from canvassing for Obama in 2008 is the huge tray of homemade mandazi some Kenyan supporters brought to the storefront church in NE Philly that served as our local staging office. That said, it's true that sweet carbs are usually widely available and more filling/well-rounded meal options would probably be appreciated. I suspect a fruit-and-cheese tray or vegetable crudites would also be a winner--finger food that doesn't require dishes or cutlery is always helpful.

Mandazi are never a bad idea though.
posted by karayel at 5:58 PM on October 24, 2016

Best answer: I've actually worked on campaigns and boy do we campaign workers love it when volunteers bring in food. In 2012 we had a group called the Obama Mamas who brought in a whole buffet once a week.

Keep in mind that campaign workers are currently working 12-14-16 hours a day and aren't exercising or sleeping or doing much self-care at all, so healthy food would be pretty welcome right now. The hummus and veggies sound great, fresh fruit, healthy baked treats. It will all get gobbled up pretty quick. Hot food like a slow cooker chili would blow people's minds!

The office probably has mini-fridge at best and a really tiny kitchen, so things that don't need refrigeration and that can be easily cleaned up are best.

Don't bother calling the office, people are probably tying up all the phone lines calling voters. Just stop in and introduce yourself and see what's needed.
posted by brookeb at 6:28 PM on October 24, 2016

I took a tray of roll up sandwiches from Costco to my local Dem campaign office (in PA) today. They seemed happy to get them. I had been planning to get donuts, but got the sandwiches instead. A campaign office in a battleground state has benefited from this question.
posted by Anne Neville at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2016

Response by poster: I managed to find out that homemade food was definitely okay, so I made a couple pounds of hummus and brought it over just now with some baby carrots & pita chips. I held of on chili, because I wasn't sure if they would have a way to heat it up; I didn't see anything of the sort when I was there.

Anyway, it seemed good, and I got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Clinton!
posted by you could feel the sky at 4:30 PM on October 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

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