Throughout the year, food drives encourage members of the community to provide nonperishable items to those in need. But do you know what to donate to a food drive and what items charity establishments would actually use? Cleaning out your cupboards and donating excess items is a place to start. Thinking beyond that (and ahead), however, allows you to give nutritious and versatile items that don’t even require cooking or intricate recipes.
Coupons are also a fantastic way to save money on food drive items that you don’t typically buy for your household, and shopping at warehouse stores can cut costs by allowing you to buy in bulk. Before you head to the store, take a look at some beneficial—and often overlooked—items to pick up for your next canned food drive.
All canned goods aren’t created equal. A can of low-sodium beans is packed with protein and fiber and makes a great donation item, while a can of pie filling is a lower priority for those in need. Decide if someone could easily eat your canned item before placing it in your donation box. Unsalted peanuts, ready-to-eat soups, and canned vegetables are also healthy, convenient options that are always in demand at food pantries.
Peanut butter and canned fruit are nutritious, filling staples that require no additional preparation too. Be sure to read all labels before donating canned goods to make sure items aren’t filled with excess salt or sugar.
Nonperishable boxed items are also a critical contribution to food drives. Dried pastas, oatmeal, cereal, and whole grain crackers all have long shelf lives that make them perfect for food drives. Snacks for your kids’ lunches, including granola bars, applesauce, and dried fruit, are often overlooked in these situations. (Plus, they’re already on your shopping list.)
Dairy milk needs to be refrigerated. On the flip side, soy, almond, and coconut milk can all be purchased and stored unrefrigerated until they’re opened. Look for alternative milks that have been fortified with nutrients for added health benefits. There are also many canned milk options that are a safe, useful food bank donation.
Edible items are a top priority for food pantries; that said, organized donations are a great time to give hygiene products and household items. Toilet paper, tampons and pads, deodorant, dry shampoo, and other self-care products are always needed. These items tend to be more expensive than canned food, so storewide sales (or when your coupons are about to expire) are the perfect time to buy extra supplies. Baby products are also often overlooked, but everything from diapers to formula to baby food can be donated during a food drive.
If you’re still wondering what to donate to a food drive, call your local pantry and ask what items they need to stock their shelves. All donations are appreciated, but with a little foresight, you can ensure you’re giving items that will provide the greatest benefit to the food pantry and the community it serves. And remember, no matter how big or small the donation, every bit helps!
What beneficial or overlooked items do you donate? Share your ideas with us on Twitter @TomsofMaine!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.