I don’t talk about it on the blog much but a couple of years ago I added some new responsibilities to my work life and one of those is overseeing the Food Pantry at the Council on Aging. This is both a rewarding and heartbreaking thing to do. It’s rewarding when we have lots of food to give away and it’s heartbreaking when our shelves are empty – something that happens all too frequently, unfortunately. This time of year, though, giving to others seems to be on everyone’s minds and we have lots of food and supplies. It’s great but what’s really great is when we get stuff that our families can really use. And that’s why today’s Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Items Your Local Food Pantry Can Use. And let me just say right up front: refried beans ain’t going to be on this list.
- Peanut butter. It’s nutritious, it’s loaded with protein, and it’s expensive. It’s our hottest commodity.
- Canned tuna fish. Personally, I think the best way to eat tuna is when it’s part of a Rainbow Roll but sushi isn’t something we offer at the food pantry. Canned tuna, though, is second only peanut butter in it’s propularity.
- Jelly. See #1.
- Spaghetti sauce. As much as we try to educate our families on preparing food from scratch as a great way to stretch a buck, a lot of our users are older and live alone. A jar of spaghetti sauce makes for an easy and quick meal for them.
- Pasta. See #4.
- Canned fruit. We don’t get fresh produce but canned fruit is a hot commodity and it disappears off our shelves very quickly.
- Cereal. I really recommend cereal that’s high in fiber and low in sugar but we do get the occasional box of Cap’n Crunch.
- Toothpaste. You can’t buy things like toothpaste with food stamps, did you know that?
- Toilet paper. The same rules apply to toilet paper as toothpaste and it really is a necessity. Ahem.
- Money and/or gift cards. This is a big one for us as it enables us to buy turkeys to distribute at Thanksgiving. And everyone deserves a turkey at Thanksgiving.
Donating to the food pantry in your community is a great way to do something that can really make a difference in someone’s life. The people I see every week are so grateful for the food we provide and that’s an incredible thing to see.
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Most excellent suggestions, Carole! Here’s hoping your food pantry shelves remain filled with the right kinds of food!
Thanks for this list. Our local pantry does a couple of drives and I’ll give them what I have but I’m not always sure that those items are the best .
Jeanne E says
Great topic and thank you for your list. I always donate but a gentle reminder as well as what is needed the most is always
Katie K says
Thanks for the list.
Great reminders, Carole. All souls need to eat. Thank you for your hard work!
Bev S. says
I always try to buy jams (no sugar) or pasta (Dreamland) for diabetics. My son has worked at the food pantry and he says that they always are running short on food that diabetics could eat.
I disagree about refried beans being on the list, or not. They would absolutely be eaten here. It’s more about knowing your audience.
We give straight out cash to our food share program 3 times a year, with an extra large check in the summer when kids aren’t getting meals at school. Collecting food is never a bad thing, but if you can give cash to the food banks, they can use it to defray shipping of large quantities of free food direct from mfgs who have overruns, or guessed demand incorrectly. When they can do that, they can provide a pound of food for $0.25 (that’s an average including all types of food). They figure 1# of food is a meal, so $1 = 4 meals! Can you tell this one is close to my heart?! 😉 But whatever you do makes a difference.
I try to donate the same things we’d use in everyday cooking, and not that odd can of pureed pumpkin left in the back of the pantry! I also try to occasionally buy a few small jars of pasta sauce for those elderly and/or single people who might use the food pantry – sometimes the larger jars can be too much at one time. I’ve also given the packaged soup mixes, figuring they can add water and some protein and have a nice hearty meal.
You are a busy lady! And one to emulate for sure. Thanks for this subject and the inspiration to get something done.
Great ideas, Carole. It’s great to get a different perspective. Thanks!
Carole, what a wonderful contribution you are making to your community! Loved the toothpaste/TP suggestion. My church has TP Sunday once a month for just the reasons you mentioned. While packing Christmas bags for needy families, I learned that toiletries of all kinds are badly needed. One way of gathering these is to save the soaps, shampoos etc. that you get while staying in a hotel or motel. Sometimes these small sizes are more practical for those whose housing situation is unstable.
Great ideas. And a good reminder to donate, especially at this most needy time of year.
Kathode Ray Tube says
Beans and rice are big staples in my neighborhood. I just brought a bunch of stuff to the Y because they are having a food drive. Thanks for the reminder to donate all year round.
I like the way Trucchi’s supermarket offers you options at the checkout. ten$ fills a shopping bag with essentials
I just dropped off a jumbo box of cheerios at my church this weekend. Thanks for the canned fruit suggestion. I’l make sure to pick some up. If I could make a suggestion it would be to donate low sodium soups when possible. I have high blood pressure and the sodium content in canned soups is very high. Many elderly have high blood pressure and it would be great if people could consider this. If you don’t have a bp problem try the low sodium anyway. I assure you it doesn’t taste bad at all.
Mary K. in Rockport says
Great and timely suggestions. Our local Cape Ann Food Pantry had to even create programs in the past few years to feed children lunch during the summer.
kathy b says
informative and appreciated
I always look this time of year for a place to give a donation to, as we head towards THanksgiving. This year it will be the Red Cross and our local food bank….thank you to you and Margene for sharing!
gale (she shoots sheep shots) says
Excellent subject. Did you know disposable diapers are also not covered by foodstamps or WIC? Sadly, people try to reuse them to make their $$ stretch, and the babies suffer. I am so glad you mentioned toiletries along with the food staples!!
That’s a great list, and really helpful. I know a lot of people want to help and aren’t sure exactly how they can, so having a list that give some guidance is so nice. Giving to others makes you feel better, but that feeling is enhanced by knowing that you are giving something that people actually need and want. (And, yeah, I echo other commenters in saying that refried beans would be welcome at my house.)
This weekend is the Scouting for Food drive locally. The collected food goes to various food banks. Sadly, they only take canned food … so no jarred pasta sauce or bags of pasta, etc. I try to donate food with meat in them … canned chili, canned tuna, canned ham, etc. figuring such a meal would be helpful. Usually I stick in a few cans of veges too.
Great list Sandy! We are involved with food collection at our church and through Boy Scouts. It has always shocked me that people in our parish (not an impoverished one by any means, if you get my drift) will donate banged up, rusted cans, many donations being well past the expiration date, sometimes while talking about the high end dinner they just had in a fancy restaurant. Can you tell that it bugs me? When our kids were in Cub Scouts we held a “toiletries drive” where we donated toilet paper, toothpaste, and shampoo and soaps, etc. to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. They were often on food stamps, but personal items were scarce. We got a lot of sample and hotel items, sometimes perfume samples, too. Every little bit helped and it was a really good lesson for the kids, who ranged from 7 – 11 to realize that there were people who even needed toilet paper.
what a great topic and helpful tips (agree with a few of the commenters – beans and rice were top choices on the list my church received from the food pantry for this year’s thanksgiving drive – guess it’s regional taste!) … maybe we could re-run next summer? that’s the neediest time for our local pantry. hungry kids need three meals instead of just one and the donors are all on vacation!
This was a great idea for a “Ten on Tuesday” and so timely since so many people are conscious of the Holiday food drives. As you point out, the food is needed year round, and our church has a couple of baskets in the vestibule to collect donations EVERY Sunday. My husband and I give at least a bag full of food items at least once a month, but you (and your Ten on Tuesday followers) suggested several items (such as diapers and TP) that food stamps won’t cover but are definitely necessities that I had not considered beforel This was great!
Is cash a better donation, then? My mother and I usually do cash if we’re going to donate. I’ll drop the odd can or toiletry item into the donation bin at the library during a drive, but mostly to make the bin look more encouraging. For some reason, a near empty bin or a too-full bin or a bin full of discards doesn’t encourage donations. Otherwise, the only hard item we donate anywhere are toiletry kits (with knitted washcloths) for the women’s shelter. Anyways, thanks for the reminder. I need to buy something nice and festive for the library box soon. Bright and cheerful tins of fruit, I think.
Thank you for useful tips!
Great ideas for the food shelf. Thanks!
I used to run our local Christmas Bureau and the thing not on our list was your children’s mouldy Smurf dolls because the poor children would appreciate them. Seriously, that was the horror story I witnessed. The next year we changed the rules to new toys only.
What a wonderful post. Thank you for the prioritized list. You do good works, Carole.