a lot of bananas
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Going Bananas

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I ran the Charm City Reptile and Amphibian Rescue for 14 years (no longer in operation). Here is a story about a large donation of bananas.

Grocery Store Donations

Forever, I’ve been trying to find a grocery store that would donate greens. Vegetables and fruit are the only thing that I have never been able to get donated. I’ve had a couple one time donations, but nothing that I could make work on a regular basis. I spend a small fortune on vegetables, mostly greens and a little fruit every week. Tortoises, iguanas, bearded dragons, blue tongue skinks and other animals eat veggies, and a small amount of them eat fruit. Fruit isn’t recommended in certain tortoises, but mostly they all eat the same salad.

Every grocery store that I talked to about donations told me that they couldn’t donate to us because they sent stuff to the Maryland Food Bank. I found out that they mostly lied. I suppose the reason is that they are afraid a person will eat the food and get sick (then WHY would they give it to the Food Bank?).

Maryland Food Bank

One day, I received a call from the Maryland Food Bank. They had a donation of a truckload of organic bananas, which were already yellow. The staff member told me they rarely get perishable food. Usually, they get donations of canned goods, boxed food or jars. That’s where the lie from the local food stores came into play. The only supermarket that admitted they throw food away was Whole Foods. They said that any food that is past its prime goes right into the dumpster. They are not allowed to give it away. I asked, “Are you saying I can get it out of the dumpster?”

“NOOOOO!” yelled the produce manager. “We don’t give it away.”

That’s such a shame because I wouldn’t mind cutting off the bad spots and using whatever is left over for the animals. But, that was never meant to be.

No help for reptiles

Normals, as I call them (or people who don’t have reptiles) don’t always understand when I would ask for help for the reptiles. I would say “reptile,” they would think “rattlesnake.” Instead, I was always careful to ask for food to “help the tortoises,” or “feed the iguanas.” I tried to avoid the word “reptile.” For some reason, it just has a bad connotation.

Back to the Maryland Food Bank… They called with a “bunch” of bananas. They asked what kind of truck I owned. I said I had a Ford Taurus station wagon. They told me it wasn’t going to be big enough.

Okay, here’s the deal. I only had a couple parrots that would eat a small piece of fruit as a treat, and only 5% of the iguana diet consists of fruit. That meant I could basically use a small bunch of bananas.

Too many bananas

Finding the Maryland Food Bank was tricky. It was nestled in a not-so-great neighborhood. It took a couple of passes with angry drivers honking at me to figure out exactly where it was. Eventually, though, I found it. I got a brief tour of the facility and met some people. They were all very nice to me, unlike the grocery store people.

Somehow, I ended up loading my car completely with cases of bananas. I could barely see to drive with bananas blocking every mirror in the car. They were stacked up in the passenger seat, with my purse wedged in between the cases and me. The smell wafting from them was almost sickeningly sweet. Fruit flies came along with the donation, and I’m sure the Maryland Food Bank was happy to get rid of them! None of the animals I had at the time ate fruit flies.

Calling all friends

As soon as I got home I was on the phone with everyone I knew, trying to find people to take bananas.

My friend Laurie had just gotten a pot-bellied pig. I gave her three cases. Of course, she too, only needed a bunch or two.

I called my friend Vicky, who worked at what was then the Reptile House at the Baltimore Zoo. I asked if maybe the bears or other animals would like some nice organic yellow bananas. Nope.

All of my friends came over and took a few bunches. That left me with only about 15 CASES of bananas! Needless to say, a lot of them ended up in the compost. After peeling and freezing many of them, I got so sick of bananas I couldn’t bear to eat them for about a year after this happened.

Naturally, I didn’t want to offend the Maryland Food Bank and I definitely wanted to be on their good side so I could get more produce if they ever got it. I never, ever heard from them again! And the banana debacle went down in history as one of the most fantastic food donation situations ever.

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Read more by Holli Friedland.

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