What Food Banks Need – and How You Can Help

At some point in the kitchen packing process, you’ll look into your cupboards. Even though you’ve probably planned meals to use up the remaining contents, many remaining items could be heavy, bulky or simply not worth taking along. 

According to the USDA, nearly 40 million people (about twice the population of greater New York) lived in food-insecure households in 2021 – six million of them were children. So instead of just tossing out what’s left, why not bring those unused food items to where they will do the most good?  

Donating Panty Items Pre-Move 

It’s more than simply dropping off extra food items you don’t want. You also should consider what types of foods are best suited for donation. Also, keep in mind many of our agents participate in the Move For Hunger program allowing customers to donate unopened, non-perishable food items still within their expiration dates.  

Five Food Donation Tips from an Expert 

We reached out to Jeanne, manager of volunteers and food distribution at a food pantry in suburban New Jersey that provides support to approximately 1.5 million guests annually. She shared a few tips and guidelines to help make sure your donations “go the distance” for those in need of some extra help. 

Q: What Items Are Most Needed? 

 A: We especially appreciate goods such as peanut butter, canned tuna, lentils and similar items with a high protein content, versus empty calories. Also, cereals and rice. 

Q: What Are the Most Requested Items? 

A: It’s the staples — pasta, pasta sauces, soups and canned veggies — that our guests ask for first. Whenever they’re available, we’ll also include items like mayonnaise and salad dressings, along with more “fun” things like cookies, crackers and candies. Our guests also love to receive personal care items like soap, diapers, shampoo, paper towels and wipes. 

Q: How Should Donors Organize and Package Items? 

A: If someone is willing to donate good, usable food, we’re happy to get it. Putting donations in boxes instead of bags is always a tremendous help. 

Q: What Winds Up Not Being Used? 

A: Unfortunately, outdated items end up getting tossed. Also, any food that has already been opened, that’s unlabeled or appears to be stale cannot be used.  

Q: What Other Items Are Good for Donations? 

A: My organization has a separate store for guests attached to the food pantry. People donate items such as coats, warm clothing, scarves and sweaters that are gently used and clean — even suits and prom dresses. Household items — pots and pans, plates, cups and napkins — are popular with our guests, too. 

No matter where you are in your journey to finding a new home, we’re always here to help. Check out our blogs for moving tips, expert packing advice and a wealth of information to help you settle in.  

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