The time when most people donate to food banks is usually around the holidays, but food banks need things all year long because hunger and financial issues are not a problem only during Christmas and actually, donation slow way down this time of year. By March or April, food banks have already run out of all the donations they got during the holiday season, too. And if you ask food banks what they really need, they will tell you it’s often what people don’t think of to donate. It’s easy to pick up a few cans of food and a couple of boxes of non-perishables, but many food banks have so much of some kinds of food that they almost can’t give it away in time before it expires or it leaves folks with not much to work with when it comes to preparing meals. Don’t get them wrong, they love any and all donations and some folks simply would not survive without the generous donations of others, but most food banks have a wish list so they can best meet their client’s needs.If you are thinking about donating to your local food bank, here are some things food banks really need.
What Food Banks Really Need
Cash donations– This is the biggest thing that could help in the biggest way. Most food banks can purchase bulk orders of foods like canned vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice and oats with this money that they portion out for folks. Cash donations also help them keep the lights on and allow them to buy things that are the most needed.
Gluten free and special diet food- Just like you and I, many people seeking help have special diets to follow due to health reasons and they can’t just eat whatever they are offered simply because they are too broke to buy their own food. Those with special diets or allergies find themselves getting far less because they don’t have many choices.
Low sugar/low sodium foods– Many folks needing help from food banks are elderly. This means they have health concerns like diabetes and heart problems that require them to eat a certain diet. Many foods at food banks are simply not suited for them.
Whole grains- Most people donate white bread, white pasta and white rice. The truth is, these items offer very little nutritional value. Whole grain versions are sought after and are always welcome.
Powdered milk and sauce mixes– Many folks who are clients of the food bank have very little. So, using milk in sauce mixes is not something they can afford to do if they have it at all. Donating sauce packets that only require water and powdered milk can help people stretch thier budgets a little further.
Canned meat- Tuna and canned chicken can help families that can’t afford fresh meats to get a little extra protein in their diets.
Cooking Oils- I don’t know about you, but I use cooking oils pretty frequently and although they aren’t a need per say, they can definitely make cooking a lot easier.
Single serve snacks- Some people who get help have children that they need to have snacks for after school or to take to school in lunches. Additionally, homeless individuals can always use shelf stable snacks to throw in their backpacks for a quick refuel option.
Toiletries and feminine hygiene– Food banks often serve people that can’t afford basic needs. Homeless women usually can’t afford to buy pads so they seek them out at food banks. Other things to consider donating are travel sized and full sized shampoos, bars of soap and lotion as well as chapstick and sunscreen.
Diapers- Sometimes, at the end of the month, it can be hard to get diapers. Food banks will often try to help people with a dozen or so diapers if they have them available.
Shopping bags/boxes, cleaners, zip lock bags and paper towels– These items are for the food banks to operate They can use the cleaners and paper towels to keep things sanitary as well as send people home with their food in shopping bags or boxes.
To find the food banks in your area, visit Feeding America.
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