Food for Thought: Charity Navigator Talks Supporting Your Local Food Bank
With the Thanksgiving season just around the corner many of us are already planning our holiday meals. Our tables will be piled high with turkeys, corn, potatoes and yams, green bean casseroles, and too many desserts to count.
This year, while you’re sitting with family and re-counting your blessings, take a moment to consider the meal in front of you. A plate full of food is something many of us take for granted, but, for millions of Americans, a daily meal is not a promise. Food banks and pantries across the country work to close this gap, but they need our help. Ensure your gift does the most good for the less fortunate in your community by taking a moment to review these simple tips:
- Understand the need.
Every community is unique which means that there is no “one-size fits all” answer to fighting food insecurity and hunger. Your local food bank understands the challenges facing the population it serves and can provide you with more information on the types of items it needs to serve your neighbors well.
In communities where diabetes is more prevalent food banks may request more sugar free items. If a local sponsor has committed to donating turkeys to needy families your food bank may ask you to provide the other makings of a holiday meal, like stuffing and canned vegetables. Your local food bank will be happy to provide you with a list of the items it needs to best serve your community during the holidays and throughout the year.
- Embrace the Golden Rule.
“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” The Golden Rule, a favorite of mothers and teachers everywhere, is a key to supporting your local food bank well.
We’ve probably all found ourselves inadvertently involved in a can drive–bring two cans of any vegetable to the school play for a discounted ticket, or donate three cans to the local food bank for a chance to win a prize. We quickly dig through the pantry pulling out the lima beans and a dusty can of soup to add to the collection without really considering what we’re donating–is the can dented? Is it expired?
If you wouldn’t eat it, why would you donate it? Remember there is a person just like you on the receiving end of that can or box. Be generous with your donation and give new items that are in line with your food bank’s requested items — and what your own family would want for dinner tonight.
- Think outside the grocery bag.
Some food banks may provide clients with non-grocery goods like personal hygiene items or cleaning supplies. Again, check with your local organization before filling a bag with laundry detergent, toothbrushes, and toilet paper for them, but if these items are in line with their needs, go for it!
- Consider cash.
Food banks often have a connection to buying wholesale or discounted food through a large central food bank or other distributor. A cash gift gives your local organization flexibility they need to respond to seasonal or changing demands.
According to Karen Leies, Vice President of Development at the Community Foodbank of New Jersey, “The impact of every dollar is especially important to consider as a donor. Because of the purchasing power of food banks, we are able to get more for every dollar than the average consumer, and monetary gifts allow us to address the ever-changing needs of food insecure [individuals].”
If you’re not set on giving an in-kind donation (actual food or non-grocery items), this is a great way to support the work your organization is doing in your community.
- Commit. Be a partner in ending hunger in your community.
Ending hunger in our communities, our country, and the world will take time and a commitment from all of us. While we may not be in a position to affect policy change that will result in marked advances against food insecurity, we can tackle hunger in our local communities by supporting our local food banks well.
Consider supporting your local organization now, as you make your grocery list and find a place to store the turkey, but remember that hunger isn’t a holiday-only issue. Hunger in our communities is ongoing and year-round. Take time to really get to know your local food bank by understanding their needs and finding other ways to get involved. Become their partner in ending hunger for your neighbors.