Which foods are best to donate to food banks?

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84:365 - Spotted Dickers PuddingsThe office where I work does a food drive every year for our holiday party. I realize this is kind of a sensitive question but… I’ve seen lots of conflicting advice on the internet about what foods are good or not good to donate.

I was wondering if anyone who has experience would have any suggestions on what kinds of foods are good to donate to a food bank? -Reeba

The conflicting information you’re receiving is likely because different food banks have different needs, at different times. You could always call your specific food bank and ask.

But that also raises the general question as to what foods do you think are best for donating to food banks?

Comments on Which foods are best to donate to food banks?

  1. I’ve used a food bank a couple times, and can I please suggest FOOD. Like, MEAL food? Like, not a snack?
    Soup is barely food you cannot really “feed” two adults with just a can of soup and expect them to last until the next meal, but nothing is ever really given to go with soup. This one time, we got one bag of pasta (gives 2 adults 4 reasonably sized meals, no second helpings but enough) and like 10 cans of assorted tomato sauces (most of which were at least 2 meals worth of sauce)? Like thanks food bank, but sauce isn’t food and I have pasta on hand, but not everyone does.
    So basic meal foods. Pasta in large quantities (900g bags routinely go on sale for $1 a bag), I make it a point to buy MONTHS worth of pasta at a time, and once we’ve been steadily employed long enough to feel secure I’ll do the same for our food bank.
    Note: No name kraft dinner is the WORST. If you feel like donating it, make yourself a box first to see if it’s palatable. Some of them just taste like orange chalk. If you still feel like it’s food, donate it, but check first please some are just terrible.
    Rice is great, check to see if your food bank takes bulk rice, some of them divvy it up into bags to spread it around.
    Beans (dried is cheaper than canned)
    I guess canned meat, but I’m a bit iffy on that. I’ve never in my life eaten canned meat, and find the whole idea awful so if you’re going that direction tuna is probably better than the “weirder” meats.

    You want to get stuff people are familiar with. Once, no actually twice, we got these weird, fish flavored crackers. Ok, yeah, they’re at the dollar store and it’s a big box and stuff, but humans aren’t all equally adventurous with food, so maybe they should have just gone with saltines. At least then you can put peanut butter on ’em. My husband got them down but I couldn’t manage it.

    Recap: Filling, Familiar, and Palatable. Oh, yeah, and Not Outdated. No name kraft dinner expired by THREE YEARS? Not ok. Cans expired by a month? Probably totally fine. If they give it out immediately.

  2. This is what my local food pantries are asking for when people want to donate food:

    “The food bank can use any nonperishable food or monetary donations. If you prefer to donate food, select shelf-stable food with the lowest saturated fats and refined carbohydrates (sugar, white flour). We buy white rice and beans in bulk, so we encourage you to donate other items. Here are some suggestions:
    General food items:

    Whole grain pastas
    Brown rice
    Tomato products
    Canned vegetables
    Canned fruit, especially with low sugar (but not artificial sweeteners)
    Canned fish or meat
    Shelf-stable milk
    Beef stew, chili and similar meals with low sugar and saturated fats
    Infant and baby foods:
    Baby formula
    Canned milk
    Infant cereal
    Jars of baby food
    Powdered or canned milk
    We also accept baby diapers”

  3. While food banks need contributions year-round, many have a specific set of items they need more of around the holidays. The food bank I volunteer at is in the process of trying to collect 800 turkeys for Christmas. Juice, coffee, 900g packages of pasta and nut-free granola bars are also big on our list.

    We also aim to provide ingredient packs with recipes so clients can prepare specific dishes at home instead of relying on high sodium mixes and canned goods and we have a teaching kitchen on-site, so stuff like sugar, flour, spices and dried beans may also be helpful.

  4. i used to work at a health-ish grocery store, in the produce department. one of my jobs was to rotate out any of the stock that was blemished. i got permission to donate the boxes of otherwise good food to our local food bank and would bring them a box or two after each shift. it works well if its somethign that can be regular, since produce doesnt last long, but it was so nice for people to recieve fresh fruit and vegetables since they are too expensive for most people who are utilizing the food bank. its also especially nice around the holidays if you cant make it a regular thing.

  5. I used a foodbank for about a year when my son was one and I lost my job and left my husband (bad timing, great decision). I agree that foodbank to foodbank needs would vary but I noticed a few constant shortages at my local bank. 1) Milk- in Canada milk is expensive whole milk (recommended for infant/toddler brain devel because of the higher fat) goes for about $6/gallon and my food bank was constantly out of any milk at all. If there was some we got a quart for 21 days which my son drank in 3. 2) Diapers- often missing certain sizes and only get 12 diapers for 21 days (do the math :/) 3) Diversity- I was glad to have anything but often the only vegetables were canned corn, beans and peas. When tomatoes, potatoes, fruit- anything ‘different’ came along – I jumped at it. 4) Fresh produce- one thing I love about being employed now is being able to buy fresh fruit and veggies for my son.

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