7 Most Useful Food Pantry Donation Items

food banks

Food stamp cuts and an especially cold winter this year put a huge strain on food pantries throughout the U.S. Some of the funds for food stamps that went to families in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) expired in November, leading to increased demand from food pantries and bare shelves this spring. If you’re looking to donate to your local food pantry, consider these seven best foods to donate.

For people who aren’t regular donors to their local food bank and want to help, money can be given rather than food. Food banks can buy in quantity at lower prices so if you haven’t yet bought food, consider cash instead.

7 Items to Donate to Your Local Food Pantry

1. Canned Meats: Donate meats bought in quantity from your local wholesale club. Goodness knows it’s usually too many cans for one family, so split the pack of tuna, salmon or chicken with the food pantry. Canned beans or canned hearty soups and stews are another option.

2. Peanut or Almond Butter: Nut butters have one of the longest shelf lives of foods and can be a great protein replacement for needy families.

3. Dried Goods: Dried pantry staples like oats, rice and pasta are also welcome donations.

4. Baby Foods and Supplies: Baby foods, formula and diapers are high demand items at pantries and shelters.

5. Kid Snacks: Healthy snacks like granola bars or fruit cups are great for families with kids receiving assistance.

6. Condiments and Spices: Ketchup, mustard, mayo and various spices may seem unnecessary, but many healthy sauces can be made from these condiments and can make food taste better.

7. Personal Hygiene Products: Toothpaste, toilet paper, soap feminine hygiene products and deodorant aren’t food, but they’re necessary for life and particularly for finding or keeping a job. Donate bulk or excess hygiene items to your local food pantry.

How to Find Your Local Food Pantry

The Feeding America program has a great local food pantry finder on its site. If you can’t find one there, usually local churches will be able to connect you with a pantry or directly to those in need. You can also call your local government (the mayor, or a county board of supervisors) for more information on local charities that accept donations, including shelters and pantries.

The only advice pantries give on items not to donate include no alcohol and no expired or open items. Some pantries also don’t accept perishables throughout the year (the holidays are sometimes an exception for turkeys or ham). You should also consider keeping your donations healthy. If you’re converting to real food this year and cleaning out boxed items from your pantry, you should still donate those so they don’t go to waste. However, don’t buy cake or brownie mixes for the purpose of donating. Instead, consider single ingredient items like flour and baking powder.

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Image: USDA