food banksThe United States Department of Agriculture reports that 14 percent of American households remain food insecure – meaning 1 in 7 households in the United States had difficulty at some time during the year in providing enough food for all their members. These figures are unacceptable; there are people in our neighborhoods right now who do not know when their next meal will come or what it will consist of – it’s truly heartbreaking.

I was happy to find an article from Readers Digest that really outlined food donation from a hungry person’s point of view and it gave me some ideas on how to improve my donations to the local community pantry.

By the way, the awesome graphic used for this post of the little girl with the cup is by Shepard Fairey, a renowned artist whose images are being used by Feeding America and other Food Bank cooperatives as a way to help raise awareness for this important topic.

Give no-cook foods

Homeless people do not have appliances like microwaves and some of the poverty stricken do not have access to working stoves or electricity. Consider giving ready to eat items like granola bars, crackers, Spam, tuna, peanut butter, dry milk—anything you’d take on a long hike.

Leave food in the original packaging 

If it needs to be portioned out, volunteers at the food bank will take care of it. This will reduce possible germs and contamination.

Think simple

A boxed cake that says Just add water is better than one that requires milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and whatever else. Instant coffee is great; ground coffee less so. Also good are multitaskers—Bisquick rocks.

Label special dietary needs 

People with food allergies or celiac disease often can’t find donated food they can eat. If you donate gluten-free food, mark it GLUTEN-FREE in large print. Do the same for allergen-free items. Clear labeling will help get the right food to the right clients.

Make it easy to open

Aseptic—or sterile—packaging and pouches are better than pull-top cans, which are better than traditional cans. It sucks even more than usual to be hungry if you’ve got a perfectly good can of food and no way to get the thing open. And avoid glass jars—they break too easily. If you are able, consider donating manual can openers as well.

Ask what’s needed

The food bank may want non-food items, like soap, toilet paper, tampons and pads, diapers, and pet food, because these can’t be purchased with food stamps. Some of these organizations need plastics/paper bags, volunteers, etc.

Check your grocery store

Many stores work with local food pantries to assemble bags of food you can buy and donate for five or ten bucks. It’s an easy way to give and you don’t even have to worry about delivering the stuff since the agreements usually include arrangements for the shelters and food pantries to pick up the food stuffs from the retail location.

Consider donating cash

Large organizations can get much better deals on food than you can. With $10, Feeding America ( can provide 90 meals to hungry people.


Of course, the important thing is to do what you can – year round. Giving food to hungry people is awesome, and someone will love you for it no matter what because you have taken from your own surplus and helped them in their time of need. There is a lot of focus on donations at this time of the year because we are traditionally uber-focused on togetherness and being thankful due to the holidays. Just remember that hunger knows no season and is hurting people all the time – try to spread some of that generous human spirit into other months if you can.

Liz Cameo   Liz