The phrase “giving to charity” often invokes a mental image of individuals donating basic cash, food supplies, or medical materials to a non-profit institutional branch that specializes in distributing such items. Yet, contrary to the basic stereotypes of philanthropy, a more sugary alternate has recently emerged in the last decade: candy charities. This may seem somewhat convoluted at first – candy has been often associated with bad hygiene and cumbersome dental trips. But, regardless of the negative conventions associated with the small, sugar-and-water solidified balls wrapped in small plastic wrappers, candy charities often have a seemingly justifiable cause.
Such is the case with Operation Gratitude, a massive organization that, each year, donates over a hundred-thousand packages of materials to American soldiers abroad. An integral part of Operation Gratitude, however, is providing military personnel with sweets collected throughout the United States. Obtaining candy from these transcontinental care packages isn’t just like finding those ordinary chunks of lemon-pops or “chewables” at the bottom of a party goodie bag. The number of pounds of sweets shipped throughout a single year ranges in magnitude but always reaches somewhere in the ten-thousands.
This gargantuan influx of donated candy does beg a paramount question. Many charities dealing with other materials, whether it be direct monetary donations or basic household supplies, face a standard inhibition of convincing individuals of giving to their cause. Typically, scrutiny follows; as a charity becomes more widely known, critics amass targeting the efficiency of the organization at dealing with contributed dollars. But how does Operation Gratitude receive such a steady flow of sugar-coated confectionary which is so often dismissed by responsible adults as unhealthy? The answer is Halloween.
Americans buy over 600 million pounds of candy for Halloween alone. That is equivalent to almost $2.8 billion dollars of purchases. But, with the negative influence of the media on the health consequences of excess candy, families that either bought prior to or received candy during Halloween decide that too much is, frankly, too much. As a consequence of this phenomenon, the surplus glass jars of lollipops, Tootsie-Rolls®, or chocolates go to waste – unless, of course, there was a more benevolent method of disposing the tantalizing bonbons.
These superfluous tons of residual sweets is exactly what Andrew Weinstock, a high school senior who started the Orlando branch of Operation Gratitude, targeted. Andrew has organized donations of over 29,000 total pounds of Halloween candy, with nearly 9,000 pounds donated per year in the last two years. Granted, even with individuals willing to shed off their extra lots of candy, undertaking such an operation was no easy maneuver. In a personal interview, Andrew cited that the biggest challenges were dealing with the “virtual mountains of email and phone calls during class and collecting, sorting, and weighing thousands of pounds of candy.”
But, not all sweet-themed charity operations deal with direct donations: a thematically similar project is one called Halloween Candy Buy Back, which functions as a branch of Operation Gratitude. Unlike the way Operation Gratitude carries out immediate donations, this organization specifically organizes for dentists to pay children, who turn over their stashes of leftover candy from Halloween, with an ironic set of tradable commodities; among cash, dentists hand out toothbrushes and hygiene kits. In the end, the dentists turn over the candy back to Operation Gratitude to ship over to soldiers abroad. And a nuance follows – for every pound of candy dedicated to Operation Gratitude, Halloween Candy Buy Back also chips in an extra toothbrush.
It is important to recognize that not all candy-based charities are associated with Operation Gratitude or soldiers around the world. Some take a more local tenure but an equally noble cause – many smaller groups, such as the Ronald McDonald House, organize candies to be donated to sick children who cannot participate in Halloween festivities. And, while the amounting tons of candies are comparatively smaller for these groups, the cause is proportional to the recipients and hence deserves equal commendation.
Outside of the internal workings of candy-based charities, there exists an associated axiom that applies to general philanthropy. As demonstrated, the most successful charities end up being the ones that deal with a surplus of materials. However, this principle also shouldn’t devalue the efforts played by such organizations. While economics can play a role in this discussion regarding the advantage of surplus driven charities, the individuals who function within such deserve a magnificent honor for the hours spent dealing with the mechanical difficulties of redistribution; as Andrew demonstrated, no general excess is easily accessible.
“About Operation Gratitude.” Operation Gratitude. Web. 26 May 2014.
Caulderwood, Kathleen. “US Halloween Shoppers Spooked By Economy.” International Business Times. 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 May 2014.
“A Sweet Way to Make Everyone Smile:The Halloween Candy Buyback Program!” Halloween Candy Buy Back. Web. 26 May 2014.