by Matilda Charles
If you’re on the other side of the fence—able to donate to the food bank rather than visiting to use its services—your local pantry can surely use your help. Running them is more complicated and expensive than it might seem!
The food bank in my town gets most of its food from the main supplier in the state, which gets its support from philanthropists, business partners, manufacturers, producers, farmers, and donors of both food and money. It then distributes food and supplies to the local food banks.
The local food bank has to pay for what it receives, of course, with its own supply of cash donors and town support. In addition, there are local businesses that donate leftover breads and bakery items, farmers that bring in fresh produce and frozen meat, and folks in town who donate both cash and food.
What food banks typically need: canned vegetables, fruit, soup, stews, and beans; pasta, peanut butter and jelly; tuna, cereals, and personal-care items like toothpaste and soap. There are specialty items they need as well, things that are hard for the food banks to get: pet food and lactose-free milk, for example, that are very important to those who need them. (I’ve made it my goal to try to provide some of these items to the food bank each month.)
If you’re in a position to help, search online for your local food bank to see what it currently needs, or make a phone call. Ask if it posts on a website or Facebook page.
Your best bet, however, might be to donate money. Most food banks have more purchasing power at the store than we do; their dollar goes much further because they don’t pay retail. They can use those dollars to target the specific needs of their clientele. Ask!