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Charitable food banks often see much more of a demand than what they actually receive in donations. With the holidays coming, it’s especially important that families in need can put food on the table. Here is a gathering of tips for what food banks need and what they already have too much of on their shelves. You can easily help make other people’s holidays (almost) as wonderful as your own.
1. Call your local food banks to see what items they need most. They’ll be happy to speak with you in person, although many of them will have a time-saving recording that delivers the deets.
2. Items that don’t require preparation are always in need because a lot of food bank visitors don’t have electricity or even a home. If you buy boxed mixes or easy-to-prepare boxed meals, make sure no extra ingredients are needed (other than water) to prepare them (such as instant oatmeal or grits).
3. Many people who go to food banks have diabetes (or other dietary restrictions), so low-sugar options (like Cheerios or bran cereals, cheese/peanut butter crackers instead of cookies) are always a good bet.
4. Canned food wins points with food banks over bagged items. For one thing, bags aren’t as durable as cans, so it’s nice to guarantee that these items will be delivered to recipients without breaking open. Pop-top cans are even better. Also, canned food is usually easier to prepare. No glass bottles, please.
4. Pastas and sauces (in plastic bottles) have a long shelf life and usually last for more than one meal. Plus, they’re delicious and often nutritious.
5. Canned meats are welcome, but tuna is usually overdonated (as are any and all types of soup). Go for tins of chicken, turkey, or pork.
7. The vegetable that food banks most often receive is green beans, so stray away from that staple. Corn, potatoes, yams, carrots, and peas are always welcome.
8. Fruits follow the same guidelines as veggies. Canned pineapple is the most commonly donated fruit, so opt for canned peaches, pears, etc. If you want to donate something fresh, apples usually last the longest and don’t have to be refrigerated.
6. Bread goes fast at food banks (even though it’s shelf life is limited). They can never have enough of it.
9. Reusable shopping bags are a practical item that people can re-use. They’re also more durable for those who must travel a long way on public transportation or by foot.
10. Snacks items that food banks can never receive enough of include the following: Granola bars, peanut butter, applesauce, saltine crackers, and jerky.
11. Chocolate is a nice touch. Of course, a Hershey bar is not very practical or essential, but it’s a thoughtful treat. Especially around holidays like Easter or Christmas.
12. Don’t forget that non-food items are very important to those in need. You can get creative with these items, but toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, chapstick & lotion go fast. Diapers and wipes are always appreciated.
13. Children in need often get free meals when school is in session. During holidays or summer breaks, these families rely on food banks more often, so the demand for kid-friendly items rises.