We're getting close to Thanksgiving, and so I'm dedicating today's Thankful Thursday post to thanks, and giving. When the holidays loom we start looking to give back, to offset all the rampant consumerism in which we are about to partake. Or maybe we're just nice people, whatever.
But before you clean out your pantry and take all that stuff you bought last year (when you thought you might be vegan but it turns out you just needed to poo) to the food pantry, stop and think. If you don't want to eat it, why subject a poor person to it?
Food Pantries are always short. They always need donations. But what you might not realize is that sometimes they have a surplus of one thing but still need more - because you can't feed a family with 700 cans of pineapple.
So I've interviewed local food pantry workers, and local food pantry clients, and put together a list of things your local food pantry really want and need. They'll take what they get, because they're awesome, so if all you want to do is clean out your pantry then go ahead and take those cans of beets and hominy. Someone will be glad to get them.
However, if what you truly want is to help a family in need, consider donating the items on this list.
1. Cash. No joke. Food Pantries can buy food from local stores at cost, so when you take $10 to the grocery store and get 10 cans of corn, they can take that same $10 and get 10 cans of corn, 10 cans of tuna and 10 loaves of bread. Plus cash is tax deductible and way easier to keep track of. Get a receipt.
2. Paper Products Paper towels, toilet paper, tampons, diapers, etc -- a lot of stores donate food because it will expire - but toilet paper never expires. If a person qualifies for food stamps, he or she still cannot buy these "luxury" items. There are women and girls, in a AMERICA, who miss school and work because they're on their period and can't afford products. This is not okay.
3. Personal Products - soap, shampoo, razors, deodorant - all these things are also unavailable on Food Stamps and rarely donated. It's hard to get a job if your pits stink. This is a GREAT place for couponers to help out! If you've got a years' worth of shampoo at your house already and some free time, how about grabbing another year's worth and donating it to the local food pantry? Edited to add: Also consider donating hair dye, lipstick, etc. These things are expensive but can really make someone's day, and if you've got a lot of grey or bad roots, it can be hard to find a job!
4. Single Serve Items - many people don't have storage or refrigeration for leftovers. A whole can of peaches will spoil if you can only eat a few of them - but 4 single serve packs will last a while! It's not exactly environmentally friendly but that's a luxury some can't afford.
5. Pop top cans - Not everyone has access to a can opener.
6. Baking mixes - It might seem silly to donate brownie mix when people are starving, but kids have birthdays even when Mom and Dad are broke. And honestly, chocolate fixes a lot of problems. Plus baking can be a fun family activity that doesn't cost a whole lot. There's a lot of good to be found in a box of cake mix.
7. Ingredients - yeast, flour, sugar, baking soda, plain rice, dried beans - making your own bread or rolls can save people a lot of money, but investing in the ingredients can be hard. It's also helpful who have food allergies to know what exactly is in their food!
8. Canned Meat - tuna, chicken, even sardines - protein is hard to come by and it's hard to keep fresh meat.. well, fresh, so the cans are great!
9. Spices - Food should be yummy. It's hard to make a can of tuna and some beans yummy without salt and pepper, and all the other spices too!
10. Fresh food - Go to your store, and buy a bunch of fresh veggies and drive straight to the pantry and drop them off. It won't work for a "food drive" but if you've got the money and the time, it'll make a bunch of people VERY happy
I've mentioned things they want... here's a quick list of things they don't want:
- Expired items
- Items without labels
- Open/used items
- Weird items
- Stale items
I hope that helps! Check out my Bean Soup and Corny Cornbread, too - a great way to use a strange assortment of canned items.
If you're in Central/South Texas, please consider donating to
Capitol Area Food Bank
Operation Liberty Hill
Round Rock Area Serving Center
San Antonio Food Bank
SOS Food Bank (New Braunfels)
Hays County Food Bank
Want to add to the list? Good! Leave a comment!