When most people let grocery coupons expire, they just throw them away.
Not the Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger people who run a free-coupon project at Hands of Hope food pantry.
Although the Coalition focuses on making people here at home better aware of the hunger problem and the sources of help available, some people outside the County get benefits as well. As unlikely as it seems at first, American troops abroad also get help from one part of the Coalition’s work—recycling expired coupons.
People let some coupons expire because they have more than one coupon for the same thing and don’t really need more of it. And other coupons may be for stuff they decided they didn’t want after all.
Many shoppers have similar experiences. There is no way to accurately estimate how many millions of dollars are lost by American shoppers who let coupons expire. USAToday lists it among “10 ways consumers repeatedly throw their money away” and reports that “roughly 15% of Groupons go unredeemed by the time the expiration date rolls around.”
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Expired coupons don’t have be wasted.
There are coupon programs that are not widely known, such as Groupons, mentioned previously, Krazy Coupon Lady, and Troopons. These programs collect expired coupons and send them to American troops overseas, who manufacturers allow to use them for as long as six months past the printed expiration date.
The Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger (BCCAH) works with a similar enterprise, CouponCabin.com. For several years, the Coalition has operated a free coupon project at the local food pantry Hands of Hope.
Early on, Hands of Hope volunteer Mary Jane Newlon mentioned CouponCabin to Coalition Co-Director Joe Littlejohn.
“We have a big collection of grocery coupons,” Littlejohn says. He explains that, every two months, BCCAH volunteers go through the coupons to pull out those that have expired. “And we have hundreds of them.”
The coupons are stuffed into a tan envelope and mailed to CouponCabin. Littlejohn points out that, although military personnel received a 2.1% raise for 2017, according The Daily Voice, $84 million in food stamps were used at military commissaries in 2014. The United States Department of Agriculture does not keep records of how many military personnel use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but base salaries for low-ranking enlistees would qualify them. According to Military.com, a 2014 Feeding America study shows that as many as 25 percent of troops in active duty, National Guard, and the Reserve use food banks to provide groceries and meals for themselves or their families. Every military base has a food pantry.
“We urge people not to throw away expired coupons,” Littlejohn says. “If they don’t want to pack them up themselves and mail them, they can drop them off at Hands of Hope, and we’ll mail them.”
The Coalition has a box for outdated coupons with the general display in the shopping area at the back of the pantry. For those who want to mail the coupons themselves, many organizations that take them are listed online. The address for CouponCabin is CouponCabin.com/Attention: Expired Coupons for Troops/PO Box 430/Whiting, IN 46394-0430.
Submitted by the Bryan County Coalition Against Hunger. For more information, contact Littlejohn at email@example.com or 580-924-2845.