Make your donations count this season by giving your local food pantry what it really wants for the holidays. Whether you’re organizing a neighborhood collection or simply spreading the good cheer with a supermarket run, consider donating these essentials that are in high-demand.
Most food banks also have unique needs – for best results, give your local pantry a quick call to find out what’s on their wish list this season.
What to Donate to Your Local Food Pantry
So boring, but so true. Food banks usually have access to wholesale prices and can purchase goods much cheaper than you can. Most are also non-profit agencies that are largely funded by individual donations. They rely on private donors to fund staffing and services like deliveries to homebound clients.
2. Baby Food & Formula
Babies are cute but extremely expensive, and many poor working mothers don’t have the luxury to breastfeed 100% of the time. Most food pantries also accept donations of diapers, another necessity for families with tots.
3. Peanut Butter
Packed with protein and loved by the young and old alike, peanut butter keeps fresh forever and is a perennial favorite at the food bank.
4. Dry Goods
Donating multiples of the same item makes it easier for food banks to organize their stock and keep track of expiration dates. Popular multiples to donate include canned tuna, canned salmon, canned chicken, cereal, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, and oatmeal – but be sure to call your local food pantry first to find out exactly what they need.
Whether canned or dried, families can create a satisfying meal with these protein-rich beauties that stay shelf-fresh for ages. Kidney beans, black beans, and pintos are the most asked-for beans at the food bank.
6. Frozen Meats
Meat is one of the most in-demand items (and also the most expensive) for young families. Just make sure that it’s packaged well and frozen. Pantries only accept frozen meats due to health code regulations.
7. Dog Food
Fur babies need to eat, too. Bags of dog and cat food are frequently requested from food pantries by those who are struggling to feed themselves, much less their pets.
8. Fresh Produce
Whether loose or packaged, from the grocery store or from your garden – fresh fruits and vegetables are great donations for food pantries. These items can be hard to find for families living in disadvantaged areas known as food deserts, where healthy eating options are scarce.
9. Low-Sodium & Low-Sugar Items
Many food pantry guests are on restricted diets due to medical issues, while others just want to eat healthier. Help them out by donating low-sugar cereals, low-sodium soups, low-sodium vegetables, no-sugar-added fruit, and unsalted nuts.
10. Cooking Oils
Oil is a pantry staple that tends to get overlooked on donation drives for some reason. And because oil is expensive, food pantries often rely on donations for their supply. Olive oil and canola oil are the most sought-after types.
Other food pantry essentials to consider giving: trail mix, herbs and spices, 100% juice drinks, shelf-stable milk, powdered milk, granola bars, popcorn, applesauce, canned chili and beef stew, holiday foods, flour, tomato/pasta sauce, canned ham, crackers, instant potatoes, can openers.
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