More than ever, Americans are depending on their community's social services to make ends meet. Stagnant wages and outsourcing of jobs overseas is causing economic instability for many. When unemployment assistance runs out and the heavily-slashed food stamps program can’t cover a family’s needs, many turn to food pantries in their neighborhoods.
If you want to donate to your local food bank in a way that makes a huge difference, purchase items that are always needed and short on supply.
Of the three nutritional cornerstones of carbs, proteins, and fats, protein is by far the most difficult to come across, especially in a shelf-stable form which takes up less of limited fridge space. Food banks can always use canned meats like tuna or chicken. Nut butters like peanut or almond are great options. Beans are a versatile form of protein, too!
Meals in a Can/Box
We all have those days where we just don’t want to cook or put a lot of thought into how the ingredients in the fridge can combine into a decent meal. Both of these points are especially true for those who depend on food banks to feed themselves and their families. They’re often overworked and underpaid, and sometimes the random assortment of what’s available at the food bank that week doesn’t lend itself to a cohesive meal.
Meals in a can or box can help. Things like soup, stew, chili or mac and cheese boxes that contain a pre-made cheese sauce (not the type that requires additional milk or butter) are great options. These are quick and easy to make while still feeling like a complete meal.
For many, kids especially, breakfast means a bowl of cereal. By providing low-sugar options, you’re helping them get off to a great start. Cereal is also especially portable and doesn’t need any preparation to be enjoyed. It’s easy to fill a plastic bag full of cereal and throw it in a backpack or purse as a snack for later.
100% Fruit Juice
Check the label and make sure that “juice” isn’t actually filled with high fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy fillers and chemicals.
Single servings are the best because they are the most portable which makes them perfect for school lunches, but any size so long as it’s actual juice will be greatly appreciated.
Canned food is the go-to for any food pantry, but even in this section, there are ways to improve your donation.
For vegetables, try to select low-sodium options. For fruit, choose brands that are canned in juice rather than syrup. Those minor changes can have a big impact on the health of the people who receive your donations!
Have you ever taken a can of soup to work only to realize at lunch time your office doesn’t have a can opener? Imagine what that must feel like for people who depend on a food bank but don’t have the ability to open the cans they’re given. Talk about frustrating.
This small consideration can make life ten times easier for the receiver of your donation. Choose pop-tops whenever you can!
It’s hard to make a meal that appeals to the taste buds without a little oil and spices. Consider donating healthy oils like olive oil, which is a kitchen staple. And spices like garlic powder, salt, pepper, and onion powder (just to name a few!) can really transform a meal from bland and basic to terrific and tasty!
Don’t Forget Baby
Having a baby can be especially difficult for families hit hard by bad economic luck. Consider including things especially for baby in your donation like diapers, baby food, and formula. These are important things for a new family to have, but are often forgotten!
Toilet paper. Toothpaste. Paper towels. Soap. Shampoo and conditioner. Deodorant. These are things everyone needs, but these necessities aren’t usually covered by food stamps. Giving personal hygiene items can really help people’s dollars go further.
Next time you’re out shopping for those less fortunate in your community, this list will definitely come in handy. Until then, you can help right now by donating to our Gift That Gives More dedicated to helping U.S. families in need keep food on their table.