Who doesn’t love pasta?

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For a week I took a few breaks during the day, from my regular role of helping people book in food hampers, to ask patrons some simple questions on staple foods that tend to make it into food bank donation bins. These are items  such as pasta, potatoes, rice, canned meat and fish, and peanut butter. I love pasta, which probably explains why I chose to write this article before one of the other four staple foods.

Pasta is a staple food in most households, since it’s such a versatile food item that can be incorporated into almost any dish or meal. Therefore, it’s no surprise that at the moment the Food Bank’s website lists canned pasta and macaroni and cheese as the top ten most needed food donations. The Food Bank is hoping to collect these items to meet the demand of more 25 000 people in the Kitchener-Waterloo who access emergency food programs and likely rely on pasta for a cost-efficient, quick to prepare, filling meal at home.

“What’s it like (when pasta isn’t around)…feels terrible…you have kids at home and nothing to feed them…pasta is a good cheap way to go.” – Male, 20s

For some pasta is a household favourite for a relatively cheap meal. One of the volunteers at our program reminisced back to a time when someone could purchase ten boxes of Kraft Dinner for one dollar. At that point in his life, this was very significant because Kraft dinner was a cheap food to keep his stomach full after he became injured and was unable to return to work. Pasta was the easiest solutions to get help him through such a rough time. “Now it wouldn’t kill me to not have pasta…but it’d be a disappointment…you get a hunger for that every now and then, you know?” So he continues to eat pasta to this day, but rarely Kraft dinner, and makes time to be more creative in how he prepares his pasta.

Pasta is a quick dish to prepare that you don’t have to add a lot of other food items to in order to achieve a great tasting meal. Time is never something anyone seems to have enough of and this likely reveals another reason that pasta is a staple in many households. A single man in his 50s had a great way to reflect on why he regularly eats pasta: “Working off and on is hard. You can’t always spend time cooking when you’re always out looking for work. You get tired and need something quick.” When you’re low on energy after a busy day, pasta is exactly that: a quick meal to prepare, or a tasty side dish to add to another meal that leaves you with a full stomach.

“When all you have is meat it’s like I’m only eating half a meal…you miss those sides, you know?” – Male, 50s

For a fair number of people, pasta is more of a meal than a side dish though. So things can become complicated when it’s not available at home. This involves re-planning some of your regular meals or going without a favourite food. A single mother of two boys mentioned that without pasta at home: “It’s a pain in the butt! Pasta feeds a lot and it’s cheap. It’s a heavy meal.” This leaves her searching, like many other families would be, to find another meal to fill their stomachs on a limited budget.

“Healthy food is quite expensive…pasta helps manage things in the best way.”
– Female in her 40s from a family of 5


“When you’re in low-income, you’re in constant survival mode…you don’t often have choices. You just use what you have.” – Female in her 50s from a family of 5

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3 Responses to “Who doesn’t love pasta?”

  1. michele scott Says:

    This is a great article! The personal stories really paint the picture of what people will do when they need to feed themselves or their families. and don’t have much choice.

  2. Christine Morgan Rier Says:

    I remember stocking up on KD as a student and today, my kids love pasta as a quick and easy ‘fill-up’ meal. I like it, because it’s versatile, especially for those of us who can’t or choose not to eat meat. If people want to donate pasta to the HOF’s Emergency Food Hamper program, where can they drop off their donation? – I’m going to add it to my grocery list.

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