Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Cheer—Local Food Banks

The holidays have that special way of reminding us that this time of year is a season of giving. Even if we find ourselves wanting or needing a little something extra this year, chances are that others could use it even more than us. The entire month of December—and sometimes even parts of November—offer the perfect setting and opportunity to get involved in charitable efforts aimed at helping others to have a more cheerful holiday. From local food banks to donating for shelter animals and even toy and clothing drives, you can find numerous ways to get involved in a good cause in your immediate neighborhood or local area. For some great ideas and links to volunteer opportunities, see our previous article, Volunteering for the Holidays.

The terms malnutrition and poverty may strike you as something suffered mainly by third world countries, but sadly, even folks in our own community are hungry or homeless and in need of a little extra help. I was very young, but I vaguely remember my mom volunteering at the food pantry when I was a little girl. From sorting food to making donations, men, women, and older children can all do their part in this special type of charity or community service. It only takes a few moments to do your part to help stamp out hunger in your local area. Can you spare a half hour to do your part?

What Is a Food Bank—Significance of Food Banks and Similar Programs

Soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks provide those who are less fortunate with warm meals or the supplies needed to create their own. For anyone not familiar with how the process works, food banks and food pantries typically accept food donations and find other ways to obtain food at low costs. A soup kitchen tends to prepare and hand out hot meals while a food pantry or food bank will often distribute pre-packed bags of food to families and individuals in need, often as a result of generous donations.

A number of people can benefit from food banks and their nutritional provisions. Seniors and those on fixed incomes may benefit most from food donations, although lots of families and individuals down on their luck may also be in line to receive some rations.

soup kitchen
Organize a food drive in your
neighborhood to donate to
those in need.
According to Fundraiser Insight, food banks are desperately in need of more food and supplies this year. If you want to contribute above and beyond your personal donation, you can organize or participate in a food drive. Food drives can be especially successful when you indicate what types of food items are in the highest demand.

What Do Food Banks Need?

The food bank nearest to your home or place of work may have different needs than the next organization on the list. It can be helpful to do a little research before going out and buying things. To get started, you might consider calling your local food bank or food pantry to get an idea of what items they need.

Different food banks may have different policies, so be sure to check into any special needs and requirements before you begin your donation process. If you do go shopping, keep some key nutritional facts in mind. Those benefiting from your generous donations may benefit most from healthy foods, fruits, vegetables, protein-rich foods, and even some healthy carbs for energy. You may be able to donate all the components for wonderful meal ideas, like a turkey or ham dinner for the holidays, or more basic foods and snacks that will certainly help as well. Depending on the individual health needs of the recipients, you may find that the healthier food options make the biggest impact.

Fundraiser Insight  suggests donating the following items:

food bank
Charitable donations to feed the hungry
are a welcome relief this season.
  • Canned meats/fish
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Soups, stews, rice, pastas, prepared meals
  • An assortment of cereals, canned veggies and fruits.
  • Milk products like canned evaporated milk and powder or dehydrated milk.
For more information about how to best tailor your charitable contribution to the needs of the food bank’s recipients, simply call the food bank location and ask.When in doubt, you can also make a cash contribution that will certainly go toward helping others in need.

How You Can Help

Every little bit helps and there’s definitely more than one way to feed the hungryFeeding America reports that a donation of just one dollar can provide eight meals! Consider doing your part to help in feeding America one mouth at a time.
  • Donate cash or groceries to your local food bank.
  • Host a food drive or volunteer your time with a community cause.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter.
  • Shop with coupons and donate the surplus of your great buys.
  • Donate your excess coupons to the local food bank, if they accept them. (Some food banks will leave out a bin for coupon collection.)
  • Talk to others about getting involved.
Many people also struggle to pay for prescription medications. Consider downloading the free FamilyWize discount prescription card and enclosing it in your holiday cards this year, or attach it to a gift. The opportunity to save money is always a welcome gift!

And last but not least, consider sharing this article to inspire others to do their part!

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer

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