Holiday seasons often find our thoughts turning to those in need.
Hunger is one of the most basic of needs we all must satisfy.
In this season of giving, we can help families and individuals living in hunger with our donations of food, money, and our time.
Food is a common expression of love and we can share that love with others during the holidays.
Giving to a food pantry or food bank is a great way to give, especially during the holidays – – really all year long.
Hunger in America
Food insecurity and hunger in America is not going away.
- 1 in 8 people struggle with hunger.
- In 2015, 43 million people (13.5%) were living in poverty.
- 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
With all the natural disasters many parts of our nation have endured this year, the need is even greater.
Food Banks & Food Pantries
Food banks and food pantries are not the same thing.
Their overarching goals are the same — feeding hungry people in the community — but how they accomplish that may be different on an operational basis.
Independent community food pantries are self-governing and usually distribute food to their low income clients directly. It can be through a faith based community or a nonprofit organization serving a community. Food pantries give unprepared food to those who have a home but limited funds to buy nutritious foods.
A food bank is the storehouse for millions of pounds of food and other products that go out to the community. They are usually nonprofits that distribute foods to hunger relief organizations. Their donations are often from larger corporations like grocers who need a way to donate large amounts of products that are edible but somehow unmarketable. They may be mislabeled or have a shorter shelf life than desirable for their needs. One of the places they distribute their foods is a local food pantry.
Yet another place hungry people can get a nutritious meal is a soup kitchen, which provides a homemade meal to people in need from a central location, usually right where it is needed most.
Unfortunately, some food donations are foods that are unhealthy, damaged, or expired so have to be discarded.
Food pantries across the country maintain the highest quality of food safety possible so not every donation will meet standards.
Food pantries like foods that are, of course, nonperishable, but also minimally processed.
Giving healthier options will help those who still need more nutritious foods to prevent or manage chronic disease, even though they are in need.
Here are some tips for giving foods to food drives, food banks or the food pantry in your community:
- Food that has good nutritional quality not just quantity of nonperishable foods such as canned fruits and vegetables (low sodium), dried fruits, whole grains like oatmeal, pasta, and brown rice
- High protein foods like canned chicken, salmon, tuna, peanut butter, shelf stable milk, dried beans, quinoa, canned stew or chili
- Fruit juices in containers that are 100% juice
- Canned soups that are low sodium
- Nuts, seeds, and popcorn
- Olive oil, honey, low sodium broths, spices, condiments like ketchup and mustard
- Healthy snacks like granola bars
- Holiday side dishes to accompany holiday meals like cranberry sauce, dressing
- Baby formula, baby food, baby cereal, and even diapers
- Powdered or evaporated milk
- Personal care products like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, deodorant, toilet paper, personal pack tissues (separate these items from food items)
Things not to give:
- Expired foods
- Damaged containers or open boxes
- Glass containers
- Pop top lids are better than those needing a can opener
- Soda or alcohol
- Bulk containers
- Boxed mixes
- Homemade items
Donations of Time & Money Needed Too
Food banks generally also accept donations of money or your time as a volunteer. Local food pantries and soup kitchens regularly need volunteers.
Did you realize that your $1 donation can provide anywhere from 3-5 meals or 1.5 pounds of food?
Consider whether this would be a good fit for you during the year to help people who need help getting a healthy meal.
Our communities thank you for your generosity!