The holiday season is here, and with it comes a number of food, clothing, and gift drives for people in need. How can we be sure that our donations are making a positive impact? We need to know what the food shelves really need.
I got this list from my pastor and have added some information about the why behind things or ways that we can be sure our donations do the most good. Riverdale Church partners with a couple of local elementary schools to provide food that kids in need can take home over long weekends and holiday breaks. When families depend on the school lunch program to get regular meals for their kids, those days off can be a huge challenge. These are the things that the schools want to put into the hands of their students.
1. Canned tuna -many people who struggle financially end up protein deficient because, as we all know, meat is expensive. Canned tuna is a shelf stable and relatively inexpensive source of protein.
2. Tuna helper – boxed dinners in general are in demand, but tuna helper is specified by the schools for the same reason. Many box meals require you to add the protein componant, and tuna is the most affordable.
3. Jars of spaghetti sauce -some food shelves don’t want glass containers, so it may be better to buy sauce in cans. They don’t break, and as a bonus, they tend to be cheaper.
4. Spaghetti noodles -whole grain pasta is more nutritious, but both white and wheat spaghetti are appreciated.
5. Canned veggies -think low sodium. People who live on inexpensive canned and pre-packaged foods eat far too much salt.
6. Cans of soup -again, low sodium is a bonus, as are veggie filled varieties. This includes canned stews and chilis, as well as condensed and ready-to-eat soups.
7. 1 lb. bags of rice -we all know it’s cheaper to buy in bulk on things like rice, but food shelves don’t have the ability to open packages and break them down into smaller packages to distribute. It’s better to stick with the 1 lb. size for donating.
8. Boxes of cereal -anyone who has raised kids knows that they can really put away the cereal! Aim for lower sugar varieties that provide nutrients and fiber.
That’s the list we got from the schools. There are other valuable things you can give that didn’t make their list but which do frequently make the wish lists of other food banks.
– canned fruit (other than pineapple – think peaches, pears, or apple sauce)
-mac and cheese and other boxed dinners
-peanut butter (some may not accept PB anymore because peanut allergies are so common, but it is another cheap source of protein. When in doubt, ask)
-beans (dry or canned)
Remember that EVERYTHING you donate must be non-perishable (shelf stable) and in its original, unopened packaging.
Another option is to donate money instead of non-perishable food items. Food banks have buying power as a result of their super sized orders as well as the corporate generosity of retailers. What you can get for $10 and what a food shelf can do with $10 is very different!
Here is a printable I made as a reminder of the biggest needs, feel free to print and share: