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Friday, July 6, 2018

Here's How to Support Your Community Food Bank

Over the last few weeks, Charity Navigator has shared easy ways to get involved and make a difference on any budget. Last week we shared a list of items to consider donating to your local homeless shelter. Today we’re talking about the best ways to help your hungry neighbors and support your local food bank.

Like homeless shelters, food banks operate and provide services all year long, but we most often think about restocking their shelves during the holidays when our own tables are piled high with food and fixings. Here are a few tips for supporting your local food pantry today (and all year round). 

What’s the need?

Before you run over with four canvas totes full of canned lima beans and yams, give your local food bank a call. Find out what they’re running low on and what they need to replenish their shelves and serve their clients. Perhaps another donor just dropped off lima beans and yams, but they could really use green beans and cereal. Or, the pantry may serve a lot of clients with health conditions that require sugar-free or low-sodium options and ask for items that meet these criteria.

Ask yourself: Would I eat this?

We’ve probably all found ourselves involved in a can drive at one time or another. You know, the “bring three cans for the food bank and you’ll be entered in this raffle.” It’s tempting to dig to the back of the cabinet and pull out a few of the things you forgot about--the soup you bought in bulk only to realize it doesn’t taste the way you thought it would, or the maybe-kinda-dented dusty cans of peaches. But, if you wouldn’t eat it, why would someone else? Don’t donate something you wouldn’t want to serve your family.

So, what should you donate?

Again, it’s always good to call before you give and to give items that you and your family would eat. But if you’re already headed out the door to the grocery store, here is a list of items to consider boxing up for your local food bank:

  • Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Spices
  • Jars of pickles, peppers, or olives
  • Baking mixes (cake, cookies, pudding, etc.)
  • Oatmeal and instant oatmeal
  • Individually-wrapped granola bars
  • Coffee

Your pantry may also provide personal care items like dish soap, detergent, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, or diapers. If they do, these are always good things to add to your box.

Got a little extra time?

The summer is a great time to help out and volunteer at your local food bank. Give them a call and to find out how you can lend a hand. Maybe they need help cleaning and organizing. Perhaps they have a community garden that could use a little TLC.

Before you head out, take a look at our Volunteer’s Guide.

More reads:

Take a look at a few of our other tips for making a difference on any budget:

Now, we want to hear from you!

If you work at or volunteer with your community food bank, what are some of the best or most creative ways you’ve seen donors support your work? And, how would you recommend people get involved with their local pantry?

Written by Ashley Post, Communications Manager at Charity Navigator.

As a 501 (c) (3) organization itself, Charity Navigator depends on public support to help donors make informed choices. Please consider investing in the future of Charity Navigator by making a donation today.  Donate now >>


Unknown said...

Nice, Thank you for including this in your blog.

Unknown said...

Appropriate food donations are always welcomed, but cash donations are especially welcomed because they can buy items from the local food bank at a price below the retail that you pay.

Harry Fink, Coal Valley Food Pantry manager

Kappy said...

Proteins, such as canned chicken or tuna fish, are appreciated by our food pantry. Also peanut butter.

Unknown said...

Always check for the expiration date on items you pull from your pantry. Also, no dented or bulging cans or broken packages.

Milton Leake, St. John Episcopal Church, York, PA

Unknown said...

If taking items from your pantry, or items donated by others, check the expiration date on the items. Also, no bulging or rusty cans or damaged packages.

Unknown said...

I donate cash because it is difficult for me to physically purchase and carry
as many items as my donation can buy and I figure this way the food pantry can also buy what they really need at the time.