Holiday donations to help curb the hunger of those in need

Suggested donation strategies can improve the food and personal care items available for those seeking help from food pantries.

During the holidays, especially, there is a good chance you will hear of a food drive to benefit your local food bank or pantry. With more and more Americans frequenting food pantries, donations are much needed and gratefully received. 

In fact, in 2014, Feeding America food banks served one out of every seven people in the United States, including 12 million children and seven million seniors. Right here in Michigan, about 16 percent of our citizens are food insecure, which means over 1,600,000 Michiganders have limited or uncertain access to adequate, healthy food.

The next time you donate to your local food bank or pantry, consider these helpful tips:

  • Pop-top canned goods do not require an extra tool.
  • Many food banks do not have the resources or staff to divide up large bulk quantities. Donating small packages of sugar, flour, rice and dry beans makes distribution easier. Additional pantry staples like baking soda, pepper, chili powder and vanilla are great ideas, too.
  • What do you like to eat? As you shop for ingredients for your next meal, double your purchase and donate half.
  • Many food banks accept non-food items like shampoo, feminine hygiene products, diapers, laundry detergent and household cleaners. These are items that are not covered by food assistance programs, and can consume a large portion of a limited budget.
  • Keep in mind the people in the community and the cultural foods they may prefer. Tortillas and beans may be more appreciated.
  • Keep healthy choices in mind and look for ways to donate items that are low in salt and sugar.

The Food Bank Council of Michigan offers a list of items most needed at local food banks. Some of the most valuable items to donate include: canned beans, canned fish, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, peanut butter and tomato products. Personal care items also top the list and include things like deodorant, razors, shampoos, soaps and toothpaste. A complete list is available online.

You can find more tips and ideas here:

Many food banks and pantries across the state do have health and nutrition staff from Michigan State University Extension providing important nutrition education that promotes healthy food choices, meal planning and budgeting. To connect with a Michigan State University Extension staff member in your area, visit the expert page, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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