7/28/2010

What poor people need in a food pantry box

A blog reader specifically asked me to write about what poor people need in a food pantry box.. This is a response to a previous article. While still helpful, the reader pointed out that not all food pantry boxes are the help that people hope they will be. I'm writing this article to shed light on some of the most helpful items and why.

This is a sample menu of items contained in the average food pantry box. For many, a box like this will be the only food in the house. Putting a meal together from this box is a difficult task. You may notice that there is peanut butter but no crackers or bread. There is cereal but no milk etc.

Before the emails start pouring in let me clarify some things that were shared by the reader. One is that she volunteered twice monthly at her local food pantry. She said it was only after being laid off from work that she found herself in need of a food box.

Many of you know that I too have worked in food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens for over 15 years. My journey began in 1994 by helping a shelter in Chattanooga, TN. Additionally, I've also worked with victims of domestic violence who found themselves homeless after leaving an abuser. My experience is the basis of this article on what poor people need in a food pantry box.

Please remember that what goes into a box is based on what is donated. Often these come to a pantry from a food bank. All items are helpful but some are more helpful than others. Don't let it stop you from donating if  you can't get an item that's listed below. Truly, every little bit helps.
  • People who receive food pantry boxes benefit most from items they can make a meal from. Examples would be canned or powered milk with a box of cereal, peanut butter with bread or crackers or spaghetti sauce and pasta. 
  • Cans of soup are good but can usually only feed one person. The large envelopes that contain enough for a family are even better. 
  • The item people most like to donate is veggies. It's no coincidence that it's also the basis of many food boxes. Flour, corn meal and cooking oil can help put a meal together. So can beans and rice. A casserole in a box that contains everything needed for a meal is better than a box of Hamburger Helper. 
  • Moms often appreciate sugar drink mixes such as Kool-aid. This goes farther than soda and gives kids a change from water. It's also not likely to be donated to bee given in a food pantry box. 
  • Cans of fruit are good. The best varieties are the ones kids are most likely to eat. 
  • What poor people need in a food box contain luxuries that we usually take for granted. Toilet paper, paper towels, soap, dishwashing liquid, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste are not covered by food stamps. Not every food pantry accepts these donations. Many do. Call the charity of your choice to double check before donating items.
  • Macaroni and cheese is always good. The macaroni and cheese that doesn't need milk or butter are better than the ones that do.
I hope this gives you an idea of what's needed in a food pantry box. In a future blog post we'll look at a sample food box menu. In the meantime, this list is just a few ideas of what people need. As always, feel free to leave your comments below. They can be helpful to others.

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2 comments:

  1. This is good to know. I had received food donations years ago when a serious illness hindered us. It was so long ago, I honestly had forgotten.

    These are excellent suggestions, and totally make sense!

    My father volunteered for a food pantry for years, and he never mentioned this.

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  2. What excellent guidelines! When I buy to donate to the food closet, I choose the same things I want for myself. More and more families are lining up when the food closet opens two days a week. It's rough for us, too, but try to contribute something each month.

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