Where Your Food Bank Donations Actually Go

May 7th 2016

A simple task such as filling a grocery bag of boxed cake mixes, canned goods and nonperishable food items can make a significant difference in the lives of those in need. Donations to food banks benefit senior citizens, disabled residents, the unemployed, low-income families, teenagers at risk and the homeless.

Why Donate?

Low-income individuals and families are at constant risk of not having food for daily meals. Food banks provide healthy choices and daily nourishment for at-risk individuals. In addition to eatable provisions, many food banks provide nonfood supplies such as shampoo, soap and cleaning supplies to help recipients maintain clean and sanitary living environments and reduce the risk of illness.

Some food banks also provide at-risk individuals with resources for emergency shelter, bill assistance and employment referrals. The donations from the community make it possible for the food banks to provide nourishment and guidance.

What to Donate

Food bank shelves can run dry, especially during the summer months and seasons other than holidays. Food banks and pantries typically need nutritious, nonperishable items that can be served and delivered to people in need. The most common items requested by food banks include peanut butter, canned vegetables, canned meat and canned meals such as stew, chili and pasta with pasta sauce. Cereal and fruit juices also are requested items that can be prepared easily for people without cooking capabilities.

Food banks that also host daily meals may need cooking ingredients such as butter, vegetable oils, flour, sugar and dairy products. Gently used cooking supplies such as skillets, pans, strainers and spatulas also may help the staff of the food pantry. Disposable silverware, plates and napkins typically are accepted as donations, too. It is best to check with the local food bank to obtain a list of needed items before dropping off food and supplies.

How Food is Distributed

Community centers and food banks prioritize nutritious food to distribute to low-income families and the homeless. Food banks strive to distribute 30 percent fresh produce and 25 percent dairy products. The remaining food in the weekly disbursement consists of frozen meats, canned vegetables and fruits, pasta, cereal, soup and fruit juices. Some food banks restrict recipients to weekly disbursements based on family size.

Where to Donate

The first step in identifying where to donate food is researching community outreach services. For example, many churches and schools host food banks and pantries to distribute to families in need. Government agencies may accept food donations to distribute to individuals and families receiving government funding or aid.

Anyone seeking opportunities to donate also can search for community food banks online within organizational websites such as Feeding America. Many organizations hosting food banks offer interactive maps and search tools to find local food banks.

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