Food Giftcard for Those in Need
November 13, 2016 12:39 PM   Subscribe

I would like to carry food giftcards with me to handout to the homeless during my daily commute, what type would provide the most bang for the buck?

Pretty straightforward, I'd like to have a stack of $5 giftcards that I could give to those in need. I'm in New York City, which store/restaurant would provide the best value for someone looking for a cheap, fulfilling meal? I'd eventually like to help out in other ways, but I'd like to start by doing something, getting into a habit and building from there.
posted by Sreiny to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not familiar with chains in the NYC area, but are there any inexpensive, casual, all-you-can-eat buffet style restaurants in the area that are easy to get to? We have some of these thruoughout my area of the Midwest. I think the ones around here are more in the $10 range but that would certainly be a short-term, filling solution.
posted by bookmammal at 12:47 PM on November 13, 2016

I'm not a fan of McDonalds but I can see this fitting what you want to do, and they sell giftcards. They explicitly say there are no penalty or dormancy fees so that might work for you to buy a bunch just to have on hand.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:52 PM on November 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'd suggest sticking to chains like McDonald's or Burger King or whatever you pass on your usual commute, considering that due to appearances, a lot of homeless people might be barred from anything fancier than fast-food places. It may not provide the best food for the dollar, but it'd be a warm place where they'd at least have a chance to sit for a bit.
posted by easily confused at 12:53 PM on November 13, 2016 [14 favorites]

The homeless deserve organic, free range meals too. Clearly you need Whole Foods ;)

I'm kidding...

I'm on board with the McDonalds, Burger King option. Hard to beat fast food on the calories per dollar scale.
posted by COD at 1:07 PM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

How about Subway? $5 footlongs, soup, cookies, chips, wraps, juice.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:16 PM on November 13, 2016 [13 favorites]

Depending on what social services are around you for food, a coffee shop can be the best option. There are a lot of free places to get meals where I live, so I give out Tim Horton's coffee shop cards because they have decent inexpensive sandwiches/foods, including veg options, along with an assortment of drinks (not just coffee, I mean) that appeal.

One thing to consider, sadly, is the perspective of the establishment when it comes to people who 'look homeless' - around where I live, a lot of the bigger chain restaurants, even fast food, don't want 'those people' sitting around taking up space (especially if the place caters to families). In the winter, however, that space is invaluable to clients who want to be able to sit and get warm for a bit while eating/drinking something.

I'm a big fan of anything that enables as many choices as possible by the recipient!
posted by VioletU at 1:19 PM on November 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

One of the things the homeless often have the easiest access to is food, because there are a variety of shelter/church/soup kitchen programs that provide it. They often have a lot more trouble with not-food, like toiletries. Duane Reade, perhaps? They can get snack foods there, but also a lot of other necessities that might be harder to come by.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:22 PM on November 13, 2016 [49 favorites]

Health is even more crucial when you're homeless than otherwise. I can only imagine how fast my health would deteriorate and how much pain I would be in if I were homeless and help only came in the form of things like McDonalds and Burger King, in addition to the extreme stresses of being homeless. I have no idea what chain would have many locations in New York City, but I'd suggest something that's most definitely not McDonalds and Burger King. Maybe something like Au Bon Pain, if there's a chain like that there.
posted by Blitz at 1:22 PM on November 13, 2016

2nd McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, KFC, Taco Bell - those places often have coupons for special days that I have seen people use, which could probably extend the value of that $5. Also, franchised coffee shops (like Tim Horton's, or I guess Dunkin Donuts?) that serve soups and sandwiches - I think those are probably the most affordable (outside of cash-only diners and hot dog stands). edit: missed VioletU's comment, 2nd it :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:24 PM on November 13, 2016

I agree with jacquilynne - homeless and poor folks can get food from food banks, or use food stamps, but soap, toilet paper, menstrual products, etc. are not covered by food aid. Drugstore or superstore gift cards might be a good idea. In my area, that's CVS, Walgreen's, and Target; you might want to give cards to the New York area equivalent. It would be especially great if you could get cards to a place that sold underwear and socks as well (again, in my area that's Target; YMMV in yours).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:36 PM on November 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Nthing the Duane Reade/Walgreens suggestion. A lot of drugstores carry discount, shelf-stable grocery items as well as toiletries and dry goods, and there's usually a location every few blocks.
posted by givennamesurname at 1:37 PM on November 13, 2016

Thanks y'all, Duane Reade / Walgreens / Riteaid are great suggestions, that's the way to go.
posted by Sreiny at 2:01 PM on November 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Rubber-band them to a new pair of clean socks if you can.

Damn, I think you just gave me a new year's resolution!
posted by wenestvedt at 2:04 PM on November 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

It sounds like you've found your answer but for anyone else considering giving out gift certificates to fast food places: I tried to give a coupon for a free meal at McDonald's to a person on the street and he told me that the nearby McDonald's no longer served him or the other local homeless people. They just didn't let them in the door.
posted by mcduff at 3:48 PM on November 13, 2016

Our local neighbourhood group regularly collects and gives toiletries & good quality winter socks (a necessity here in Canada).
posted by Ashwagandha at 6:18 PM on November 13, 2016

Hubby says Duane Reade. I say whatever is closest to your commute.
posted by Toddles at 7:17 PM on November 13, 2016

I always give out socks. I was told sometime ago that that is one thing the homeless really appreciate. But now I'm thinking about giving McDs and BK gift cards along with the socks.
posted by james33 at 4:06 AM on November 14, 2016

I give cash, because I don't know what they need. Also, some shelters charge per night.
posted by jb at 6:02 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

There was a short going around FB a couple of weeks ago about how tough it is for women to get tampons and sanitary napkins, due to cost. So nthing the suggestions for CVS / Duane Reade etc. I'll be adding such items to all donation boxes and drives from now on.
posted by vignettist at 10:09 AM on November 14, 2016

Homeless people do need toiletries.

Note that foodstamps only covers cold food, so hot food is appeciated, but as many have noted pretty easy to come by.
If you want to make homeless women happy, aside from tampons -- bra gift certificates! Many homeless women struggle with obseity or are just large busted, and they are 1)expensive and 2) very difficult to come by though donations.
Also gift certificates to hair salons.

Laundromat cards are useful, and really if you donate a nice coat, you should give a laundromat card so they can wash it.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:55 PM on November 14, 2016

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