What Should You Donate To Food Banks? (Hint: No One Wants Tartar Sauce For Breakfast)

It’s a holly jolly time of year, but because not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to fill up their carts at the grocery store, you might be thinking it’d be nice to donate to your local food bank. And you’re right, it’s a very good thing for you to do. But not if you’re just going to unload the unwanted cans of tomato paste from the back of your pantry.

Think about it this way: What if you opened up your cupboards and saw only miles of garbanzo beans and pickled sardines? A good place to start, points out xoJane’s Deb Martinson, is to not give anything you wouldn’t want to eat yourself. Because there’s not a lot of choice at a food bank — you’re going to be handed a bag of food and you’ll have to figure out how to make that stuff into a meal.

So she suggests this idea: Give like a hungry person. What would you want to eat, using only non-perishable foods? Think up a day’s worth of food that you would totally chow down on and that’s what you should give to the donation bucket.

Some other great rules to go by:

Nobody wants dumb stuff: A container of candied fruitcake fruit is the example here. Sure, if someone is hungry enough to eat the rejected white elephant gift you got at the holiday party, they will. But it’s kind of horrible to just dump that on someone else. Ditto with exotic things like escargot and caviar — the average person is probably going to turn green at the thought of canned snails for breakfast.

Not everyone has a microwave or can opener: If you’re homeless, odds are you don’t have a microwave strapped to your back, so think about donating food that can be eaten on the go without cooking, like tuna, peanut butter, granola bars, crackers etc. Also consider that someone might not have a can opener, so shoot for those cans that have the pull-up top.

Perishable items will perish: This might seem like a no-brainer but it’s always a good reminder — any food that will go bad sooner rather than later if it’s not refrigerated is likely going to get thrown out at a food bank, unless it’s the kind that also prepares meals to serve.

Ask what you should give: On that note, there could be food banks that need specific items after perhaps receiving one too many cans of low-sodium tomato soup. Some might even ask you to give non-food items like toilet paper, soap, toiletries, diapers and pet food.

Thoughtfulness goes a long way: Yes, you should be giving hearty, healthy food to sustain a hungry person. But sometimes a nice little treat like candy or cookies can bring happiness where someone might not expect. Toss some treats in the next time you’re assembling your donation.

Of course, any donation is going to be welcomed and we’re not telling anyone what to do. It’s a good idea, however, to step back and imagine you’re the person receiving that food. Give what you would want to get.

For more tips on donating in general, read How To Not Suck… At Charitable Giving check out the source link below.