What To Give Your Local Food Bank

November 25, 2014   15 Comments

Thanksgiving is a few days away and you will probably be swimming in food. To relieve some of the guilt of excess, I suggest donating to your local food bank.

Food Bank

I am not suggesting that you should feel guilty, by the way. But, if you do feel pangs of guilt, donating to a food bank is a good way to feel better.

Yes, dear readers, I know it is the time of year that you get hit with a ton of non-profits wanting a donation. Over the weekend, I got a call from Doctors Without Borders because I gave in September after I read about Ebola (and they wanted more of course).

I write about food every day and to think that there are people who go hungry on my block makes me want to do something. Why do people need food assistance?

From The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts:

Many people seek emergency food to get them through a short-term crisis: a layoff, a critical illness, or loss of home due to fire. Others are unemployed and hungry with no way to buy food.

An increasing number are seeking food to fill in gaps their paychecks aren’t covering. With 25% percent of U.S. workers making $8 an hour or less, many families are living from week to week, just on the edge of emergency. As the job market has shifted from a steady manufacturing base to service jobs, the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union reports that the median household income in Massachusetts has fallen 10% since 1989.

Our wages have decreased, while the price of food, gas, electricity, housing, childcare, and healthcare has increased. Food banks help people bridge the gap when they are running short.

What does your food bank need?

1. Your donation in the form of money. They can buy wholesale and will leverage your cash much better than you can.

2. Healthy complete meals such as these:
Peanut butter and jelly
Rice and canned or dry beans
Spaghetti and canned spaghetti sauce
Canned or boxed pasta/rice meals and canned vegetables
Canned or instant soups/stews and rice
Dry oatmeal and canned fruit

3. Other essentials such as shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and toilet paper.

What would they rather not have?

1. Expired food (they have to toss it out).
2. Food packed in glass (can break).
3. Weird food that nobody wants like marmite or jalapeno jelly.

I mean you might like marmite and jalapeño jelly but you are probably in the minority. I am now ready to get flamed.

Check out Feeding America to find your local food bank.

What charities do you give to this time of year?

Photo Credit: "Non-perishable food items collected during a holiday food drive” Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Thanks for pointing out the need for hygiene products. Diapers in all sizes are always in high demand at our church's food pantry.

We have also been told that tuna is a good contribution. Also items that children can manage themselves: peanut butter crackers, pudding cups, applesauce cups, small packs of raisins, etc. are sometimes put in backpacks for students to take home on the weekends where there are no school lunches.

I've been told that state programs don't cover paper products and some toiletries, so we combine coupons and sales to donate soap, shampoo, paper towel, etc. whenever we can. We've also heard from the local food pantry that condiments are in high demand, so we keep an eye out for those too. It feels good to help.

Thank you, Lisa!

Thanks for this posting, Lisa!!! These needs of the food shelf are so simple and inexpensive, they should be busting out with supplies!!! One thing that I'm going to do is take my son along to shop, and then deliver the goods to the food shelf. He's only 2 1/2, but if we can teach him the really essence of giving, combined with love, we are hoping he will grow up to embrace those values!

Don't forget BOGOs when for you, one for the food pantry!

Thanks for posting. I volunteer at a local food pantry and your list is great. I especially like the reminder about not donating expired food. We cannot give those items out. So, when you are cleaning out your parent's house or your own cupboard if the food is expired it probably can't be used.

I agree on the "weird" foods too. We can give them out, but it will be harder. Try to think of foods most anyone can use and like.

Toilet paper is a huge need. As is dish soap and laundry detergent, Kleenex and paper towels.

Saltine crackers are good. We give a sleeve to a family. Instant oatmeal and hot chocolate are good for cold weather.

Awesome & informative post! People tend not to realize how easy it is to suddenly find yourself in dire straits. And if you've been fortunate all your life, it might be incredibly hard to understand how so many of us do live paycheck to paycheck. We have tried to instill the need to give to charities into our 7 yr old daughter from the time she was 3. She is very giving when it comes to donating her old clothes & toys. And she actually enjoys it. Explaining to her that there are so many people who do not get to eat is hard for her to understand. We've been in tight spots before & luckly have always managed to get her fed. In her world food has always been there whereas a toy she might have to earn or wait til a birthday so helping her to understand & realize some people have to go without food has been a different challenge than teaching her to donate clothing. But she is learning. We want her to grow up aware of other peoples needs all year, not just the holiday season.

I coordinate our NE corp volunteer program at Greater Boston Food Bank. Besides TP, toiletries and diapers, they also like to receive donations of tea & coffee, cake mixes & frostings (for birthday celebrations), and protein sources besides beans - - think canned fish, chicken, ham, nut butters, etc. Typically they receive LOTS of tomatoe products (from supermarkets for food reclamation) and pastas. Also consider oils, spices and all the little things that help make food a meal! Happy Thanksgiving!

Lisa, This is a really nice post. Thanks for being so caring and thoughtful.

I have always wondered whether food pantries would accept opened toiletries? Sometimes I have extra travel shampoos from hotels, or I try a new product but don't like it (like a lotion or something). Can I donate that?

Happy Thanksgiving, all!


This is a great post. Also, churches have food pantries that are available to everyone not just parishioners. I worked the food pantry at our church and not one person attended this church.

Our church officials have to make the two hour drive to one of the larger cities to pick up canned goods from a central food bank that also supplies other charities as well.

The church also makes grocery bags and Christmas baskets every year for those known to be in need. They also collect toys every Christmas.

The Salvation Army is a great charity too and has been around over 100 years. They help with missing persons, hunger relief, Veterans affairs, housing and other human needs. There is usually one in every town so you can donate to your local community.

@Rachel - they specifically told me that they want UNOPENED toiletries. I know they would love travel shampoos that you haven't used.

Thanks for your question!!

Yes, very good post! In church Sunday our pastor was talking about the need in our area. We live in pretty small town and even as an adult, it is hard for me to imagine kids going to bed hungry. I attempted to send my 40 lb daughter to school with 2 jars of pb and 2 cans of tomato soup for the donation they are taking at her school. Her bag was so heavy she almost fell over so I had to take some out. We will be making a donation soon!

As a user of food banks from time to time I have to mention pls to do what you can to consider the healthy benefits of the items you give. I was looking at noodle bowls the other day cause my teens like them but they have in the area of 1000mg of salt per bowl. I put them right back on the shelf. My kids will have to do without them. Items I can suggest are, cereals without too much sugar like rice crispies. Ones kids will actually eat. Adult cereals too as the adults are often last to get considered. Canned tuna and salmon are much healthier than the chicken and ham; much less salt. Brown rice and gluten free items as well for those in need. Gluten free snacks, cereals, an alternative flour like a nut flour. Baking good are also appreciated. Again, I would opt for a bag of flour instead of a cake mix. A bag is icing sugar instead of a can of icing. Baking is also a good activity for these families. :) Oatmeal can make oatmeal cookies or granola can make granola bars. Honey is healthy too and can be given. 100% fruit juice vs blends is also something good to give. Its so easy to load up the food bank with no name canned goods but the recipient will feel a lot better about what they are given if its not bags of the cheapest and poorest quality food available. They need to eat but they also need to eat healthy food. Thank you for giving this some thought. I have received both and felt a whole lot better about the healthier food.

You might want to call your food cupboard and ask what your local one needs. There might be certain local favorites you might not think to donate that the clients would love to have. The food cupboard in my small town gives out pierogies donated by a local food manufacturer and they are quite popular since there's a high concentration of Polish-Americans in our area. Your local favorite might also be a welcome sight to someone at your food cupboard.

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