A Meaningful Way to Give Back
It feels good to help others. We know that. Contributing to a cause and bettering the world will no doubt give you an improved sense of wellbeing. Especially at a time when so much can feel out of your control. And while philanthropy is mostly an initiative reserved for the wealthy, there is a meaningful way to give that doesn't cost much and makes a huge impact on your local community.
Surveys by the USDA and the Census Bureau show that hunger has risen steeply in the United States. Just before the coronavirus struck, 35 million Americans (11 million of them children) experienced food insecurity, the lowest figure in more than two decades. This year, those numbers are projected to reach 54 million and 18 million respectively. Food banks need support more than ever.
“The pandemic is creating a perfect storm for food banks across the country,” says Zuani Villarreal of Feeding America. “More people need food, yet less food is donated.” When shoppers stockpile staples at home, stores are unable to donate extra items to food banks. And with restaurants closed, they're unable to donate excess ingredients and other food.
And that leaves cash-strapped people and low-income families without a place to get necessary nutrition with few questions asked. Food banks and local pantries can often be overlooked as places to give—they're not as flashy as an online campaign or something you post about on social media. But they're an extremely worthy cause and are in desperate need of support. If you want to keep your philanthropy purely digital, order the food and have it sent directly to your local pantry. Maybe even set up recurring monthly donations.
Feeding America has a national fund that goes to support hunger needs nationwide. Every dollar you give helps provide at least 10 meals. Or they've got a locator to help you find a food bank locally that could use your help. Some may need volunteers, especially as older people choose to stay home out of safety concerns. Contact your local food bank to see how you can volunteer or if there are specific items they might need.
And while any and all shelf-stable and canned food donations are accepted, one food bank volunteer told us that some items are more appreciated than others. Everyone donates blue boxes of Mac & Cheese, but that requires milk and butter, which isn't always available. Boxed milk is like gold, because it can go a long way and kids can use it for cereal (which they get a lot of). Food banks get lots of pasta but not enough sliced sandwich bread. People hardly ever donate items like coffee, tea, sugar and spices, but they can be real treats during hard times. Boxed cake mix and tubs of frosting make it possible for a kid to get a birthday cake. Dish soap comes in handy and everyone loves Stove Top stuffing and peanut butter.
You never know. Maybe the money you throw towards some extra groceries will provide meals to a neighbor who you didn't even know was struggling. Plus, like we said earlier, it feels good to know you're doing your part to make the world a little better.
The number one rule to remember is this: if your donation is perishable, i.e. it's something that has a limited shelf life if not refrigerated, food banks won't accept it. Here's a list of what to donate and what you can't.