Topic of the Month – Food Drives
Many families in Minnesota rely on food from food shelves to feed their households. For some, the food shelf is temporarily their only resource for fresh produce. Eating healthy food like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important. Access to fresh, healthy food allows families and individuals to get by with less worry, so they can focus on getting back on their feet.
If you are moved to donate, be sure to check with your local food shelf before purchasing any food. They will have the best idea of what is most needed and what is in low supply.
To find out where your local food shelf is, you can just go to Feeding America and search by your location.
While food canned from home may be well-intentioned, food pantries are prohibited from taking it due to a lack of an expiration date.
What do donate?
Donating cash allows food shelves to purchase more healthy food using their networks. Food shelves often purchase food at wholesale prices through food banks or other food distributors. Because food shelves have special discounts that differ from individual (and by buying in bulk), they can stretch a dollar further than an individual who chooses to donate food. This means more healthy food for more people. Also, this will give the food shelf the flexibility of providing exactly what they may be lacking, instead of relying solely on food donations from individuals.
Low Sugar/Sodium Foods
Many participants in food shelf programs are the elderly. With special diets that require them to monitor their blood sugar or salt levels, senior citizens who require the help of food pantries often come up short of what they really need. Consider donating foods that are low in sugar or salt. There are dozens of types of soup and cereals that cater to people with these dietary restrictions, so finding them should be easy.
Food is number one on the list of things to donate, but there is a high demand for basic toiletries in many food pantries. Items like toothbrushes (& toothpaste), soap, lotions, shampoo and even chapstick are things that will go quickly. Also, don’t forget about feminine hygiene products. Diapers are also sought after for families with young children.
Food with a Long Lasting Shelf Life
Food that can sit in the pantry is highly sought after. If people have food on their shelves, they can feed their families. Simple as that. Including bags of apples, potatoes, and even onions into your donation can make a huge difference. Other options can include spaghetti noodles (and sauces), canned goods (soups, veggies, fruit), even evaporated milk. Dry beans can fall under this category, but there is a barrier to implementation simply because many people don’t know how to prepare dry beans. Canned beans can work just as well.
There is nothing that says you care more than spending your time. Volunteer at your local food shelf because they will always have cans to sort, food to hand out, boxes to lug, and any other important (but often thankless) task that needs doing. This is a spot on way to bring your community together and help families in need.