There's a feel-good solution for those who prepared for the Y2K worst and are now stuck with stockpiles of canned goods, cereal and pasta: Pantries that serve the poor are eager to take that food off your hands.
"The food is very much needed by hungry people," said Deborah Leff, president and chief executive officer of America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization, which helps supply 50,000 local charities.
Second Harvest today announced "Y Go 2 Waste," a national food drive to encourage people to donate their surplus canned and packaged foods.
Helped by a $50,000 grant from Kellogg Co., the cereal maker, Second Harvest food banks across the country will conduct drives from Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, Leff said by phone from Chicago.
"We can take all that food off their hands and have it all gone in a month," said Janine Laird, executive director of the Minnesota Food Shelf Association, which represents 320 food shelves across the state that distribute more than 24 million pounds of food a year.
Officials don't know how much food was stockpiled in fear of a Y2K cataclysm. It might be a large resource they can tap, or it might not amount to much, Laird said.
It's possible that only a few shoppers really stocked up, said Steve Sellent, director of the Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo, N.D., which serves North Dakota and Clay County of Minnesota.
"I think we probably at one time expected there would be more, but I think that over the last six months, people realized major problems wouldn't happen," Sellent said.
Officials at several food banks across the country said today that they had not seen any increase in donations. Rachel Bristol, executive director of the Oregon Food Bank in Portland, said many people may be hanging on to their supplies in case they need them for winter storms.
Caroline Frengle, executive director of Food for Lane County in Eugene, Ore., speculated that people are waiting to make sure the Y2K threat has truly passed.
In Columbus, Ohio, food bank officials said it could be days or weeks before people decide what to do with the cans of Spam and beef stew filling their cupboards.
"I don't think it will happen that fast," said Evelyn Behm, associate director of Mid-Ohio FoodBank.
Donors should contact their local food shelves or food banks before dropping off their contributions, because some are momentarily short of space, advised Stormy Trom, director of the Steele County Food Shelf in Owatonna, Minn. She said many food shelves are well-supplied at the moment because of holiday donations.
If stockpilers want to wait to make sure the Y2K threat has passed, food shelves will be happy to take their non-perishables in a couple of months. Donations traditionally drop off sharply after the holidays.
CAPTION: Rodney Catana arranges cans at the Groveland Foodshelf in Minneapolis, among the groups seeking any Y2K surplus.