Sustainability Tip: What should you donate to your local food bank?

Volunteers at Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive Day. Credit: National Today

By Sophie Roback, Alliance Intern from Colorado College ‘24

More than 33 million Americans, around 10% of the US, are food insecure according to the USDA. Food banks throughout the US are always in need of donations. The best, easiest, and fastest way of supporting them is with a financial donation. But if you choose to provide food or other support, here are some tips:

  1. Most food banks generally accept food that is non-perishable and shelf stable according to Feeding America. However, many food banks also accept perishable items, so make sure to check with your local food bank! 

  2. Cooking basics, such as oil, spices, flour, and sugar are great and often overlooked.

  3. Consider donating a can opener or canned foods with pop-off tops for easier access.

  4. Milk is one of the most requested items, however, it can be hard to store. Shelf-stable milk alternatives (soy, almond, oat, etc.) or powdered milk can be good substitutes to donate, says the Orange County Register.

  5. Consider what ingredients something needs before donating. For instance, a box of mac and cheese needs milk and butter which can be harder to acquire. 

Fara Kaufman recently spoke with people getting food at a food bank and noted some specific items that can often be overlooked but are extremely appreciated. 

  • Tea-bags and coffee
  • Fresh produce when possible
  • Seeds for growing in the Spring and Summer
  • Fresh meat if possible
  • Sandwich bread because they tend to have a lot of peanut butter and jelly 
  • Eggs 
  • Cake mix and frosting to help celebrate children’s birthdays 
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Feminine hygiene products

It is important that we speak with the community members receiving support to make sure that we are offering not what we think others need, but what they tell us they need

As someone who has worked in the food service industry where the abundance of food and waste can sometimes feel overwhelming, there are opportunities to make a difference. For example, Food to Power is a non-profit that works to improve food access by redistributing “surplus healthy foods from local supermarkets, backyard gardens and cafeterias to 20+ non-profit and community-based grocery programs.”

We can each help make a difference for people to have their fundamental needs met

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