Here's a list of the most needed items for food pantry donations, including both food and non-food items.
During the holiday season many people begin donating to local food pantries, as well as anytime you decide to organize and declutter your pantry.
While every donation of unexpired food is appreciated, there are items that these local food pantries and banks need more than others. And the reality is that every year volunteers for these pantries go through tons of donations, and often have lists of much needed items that people just don't donate.
When these charities don't get the needed donations they then have to find alternative funds to provide those items to the people in need in the community.
So this list is meant to help you provide not only what you have, but to really try to make a difference this year by providing what will help people the most. While I've tried to be thorough this list is just a beginning of items you can donate this year to meet the needs in your community, so if you have more suggestions and ideas I would love to hear them in the comments below.
This list has two parts, including both food items, and also non-food items, since both are so important.
Kits that include canned meat, canned sauce and pasta all in one box are great choices. This means the person receiving them can make them without having to purchase additional ingredients.
Special treats or easy breakfasts are much needed and appreciated, and one of the simplest is pancake or muffin mix that only requires you to add water. Mixes which require additional ingredients, such as oil or eggs, sometimes make it more difficult for a person or family to actually make the food item.
Soups or even canned ravioli or pasta meals that don't require anything other than a heat source to eat are excellent for those who have limited resources, including sometimes not a very well equipped kitchen. There are many places recipients of these donations may be able to heat up these types of meals, and many kids love them and it can provide a filling warm meal.
Tuna, chicken, salmon, Spam or similar types of meat are excellent choices for donation. Potted meat blends, sardines and similar choices are often donated because they are inexpensive, but these are really difficult to get a child to eat no matter how hungry they are. If you are actually choosing what to donate, as opposed to decluttering things from your own pantry, focus your donations towards those canned meats listed first which are more usable in a wider variety of recipes, and also are more kid friendly.
Statistics say that food pantries really need more canned fruit. They often get fruit cocktail and pineapple, but peaches, pears and even cherries or tropical fruit blends would be welcomed.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes and similar are always welcome at any food pantry and rarely donated.
There are many people in need who have food allergies. Donating items that are gluten free, nut free, dairy free and overall allergy friendly is always beneficial for those those with specific food needs.
Flour, sugar, cornmeal, rice, dry beans, oil, shortening, baking soda and powder, vanilla extract and seasonings of all kinds are always welcomed. Garlic, pepper, salt, chili powder, etc. can make a meal much more palatable.
Milk is hard to keep cold, but individual serving sizes of shelf stable milk are a great choice to donate. These are especially nice for families with kids who can't always afford the milk their kids need.
100% pure juice is always needed at food pantries. This is often given to families of young children, and grabbing individual juice boxes makes it shelf stable and easier to portion.
If you hadn't noticed from the list above some of the items that many of us take for granted in our refrigerator, like milk and eggs, are hard to come by in a food pantry. That makes sense, but these items are such an important part of many dishes it's sad they aren't more available.
But I've learned of a great program that can help provide eggs to local pantries. It's called Hatch For Hunger, and you can donate money, between now and December 24th, which will then be used to provide fresh eggs to families who need them. Click the link to find out more! Donating $1.50 will provide a family with fresh eggs for a week.
There are also some non-food items that almost every food pantry would welcome having donated. Remember that your local food pantry may be providing not just a hot meal, but also support for paying bills, job placement or basic needs for low income or homeless families.
Toilet paper, paper towels, bleach, sanitizing solutions, sanitizing wipes and basic cleaning supplies are very welcomed by those in need.
Maxi pads, tampons, panty liners and even feminine wipes are all items that food pantries do hand out alongside the meals. The homeless and needy in our communities need these items desperately.
All sizes of baby diapers and wipes (unscented is best) can be useful for those families coming in with infants and toddlers. Additionally, things like baby wash, shampoo and diaper rash cream or new unused bottles, nipples and even formula that is in date are often welcomed.
Socks are vital to those who are homeless and out on the streets, but clean underwear is another choice that people often overlook. From kid to adults in all sizes, this is a great choice for donating. Most locations will tell you tube socks, boxer shorts for men and traditional brief style panties for women are the most versatile. And, please purchase these items new for donation, not used!
This list is lengthy, but next time you reach to donate something from your pantry to a local food pantry you will know just what they are really looking for and in need of. In addition, don't hesitate to contact your local food pantries and shelters and ask specifically for their needs. They are always willing to let you know exactly what they are low on and could use at that time.
I would also love to hear your ideas and additions to this list, so tell me in the comments below.
Photo of eggs courtesy of John-Morgan
I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!