Much Ado About a Can Opener

The main staple of most food banks is canned goods, yet most people never really think about whether clients actually have a can opener. I have to admit that this had never ever occurred to me until another student brought it up in class. Looking back, it makes a lot of sense. When people come to food banks, they are admitting that they need help feeding themselves and their families. Why on earth do we assume that they have all the tools needed to actually cook the food we are giving them? I think it’s because, often times, we feel we are doing enough providing food to these people. We can sleep easier at night knowing people have food, so we don’t think to consider the bigger questions about can openers.

Participating in SNAP while living in a college dorm room has given me a new perspective because I certainly don’t have many cooking tools just laying around. The extent of my cookware/dinnerware includes a microwavable bowl, some Tupperware, a couple of mugs, two forks and two spoons. Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to have a mini fridge, so my food doesn’t spoil, and a microwave, so I can eat warm food. But that begs a follow up question: how many SNAP participants have access to a fridge and/or a microwave, or any other kitchen appliance for that matter? There’s nothing better than a warm meal, especially when the nights get so cold. How do these people make a warm meal, if they have that luxury at all?

While I was grocery shopping, the can opener dilemma slipped my mind. So last night when I went to open the can of pork and beans, I found myself a little SOL. Luckily, a friend had a Swiss Army Knife, so I learned how to use that unique little can opener. It was an interesting contraption: a small hook with a tiny wedge shaped knife. You place the hook on the outside rim of the lid, angle the knife part towards the center of the lid and use your wrist to puncture the lid, all the way around. It definitely gets the job done!


However, while I was researching other ways to open a can, I came across an article on about how to open a can without a can opener. Here’s what it said:

Option 1: Use a Spoon–rub the tip of a metal spoon back and forth in small increments along the inner edge of the can, the friction will cause the lid to separate, once you work your way around, pop the lid off with the spoon

To me, this process seemed far too labor and time intensive, and honestly a little ridiculous. I’m still not entirely sure how effectively one can open a can with a dull edged spoon. However, I was prepared to try it, since I did have a metal spoon, if I couldn’t find some sort of knife.


Option 2: Use a Chef’s Knife–use the heel of the knife to make small punctures all the way around the inside of the lid and then pry the lid off with the edge of the knife.

So this option is flat out unavailable to (most likely) a large majority of SNAP beneficiaries. Chef’s knives can cost anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars. If someone can’t afford to buy a $6 can opener from Walmart, they’re certainly not going to have a chef’s knife.


Option 3: Use a rock–place the can upside down on a rough rock and rub the can back and forth until moisture runs onto the rock (be careful not to rub through the lid), then use a pocket knife to pry the lid off.

Okay, this one sounds downright medieval. I believe this method is meant for people who love to camp and lose their can opener somewhere along the way. But, if it’s all you got…why not? I guess…




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