Local food banks and pantries have always been a critical lifeline for those in our community dealing with “food insecurity.” However, these resources are currently under incredible strain. You’ve no doubt seen grim TV footage of miles of cars waiting in line to pick up supplies. According to FeedingAmerica.org, 82 percent of America’s food banks have seen a 50 percent jump in demand since last year.
Obviously, helping food banks is more important than it’s ever been. You probably think that dropping off a box of groceries is the best way to help. But there are other ways to assist.
Cash donations are the most efficient form of support. The reason? Food banks often negotiate with manufacturers, farmers, and grocery stores for wholesale deals. Thus, they can get a lot more for the money than what you can provide them from your local store.
Providing monetary donations also helps food banks to combat food waste. For example, 72 billion pounds of food is wasted every year. Food banks offer the logistics to work with farmers and get that perfectly good food onto the plates of those who need it.
Another reason that money may be a more effective donation? Many smaller pantries can only accommodate so many items. Thus, it’s a good idea to contact your local organization to double-check which they would prefer: cash or physical food donations (and if it is food, they can also tell you what’s most needed at the moment).
If you do donate supplies, opt for shelf-stable items like canned goods, pasta, and rice. These pair with the fresh foods that are being sourced locally, providing a balanced selection for recipients.
The other thing that’s a critical need these days at food banks is… volunteers.
Many of these places have long relied on older helpers, a lot of whom are currently sidelined for pandemic reasons. Younger volunteers are in big demand.
Helpers should know that almost every food pantry is incorporating smart measures like masks, gloves, social distancing, and hand sanitizer – so if you want to volunteer on-site, you can do so safely. Contact them to check their protocols.
Pantries have typically operated like a grocery store but overwhelming demand has forced many organizations to switch to pre-made food bags or boxes handed out through a drive-up system (and those boxes require packing). Another pair of hands would no doubt be welcome.
Whether you support today’s challenging fight against food insecurity via donations of groceries, time, or money, it will have a bigger impact on your community than you know. So … step up to the “plate”!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons