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20 Things People Who Get Items From Food Banks Want You To Know Before Donating

Photo: Ground Picture / Shutterstock
food bank volunteers sorting through food

While people need food banks year-round, they are especially important during the holiday season, when big meals with loved ones are the standard. During the season of giving, why not give to those who are in need of basic necessities?

Giving to a food bank ahead of Thanksgiving is more than just a thoughtful gesture, it can be the difference between a family gathering together for the holidays or going hungry.

Although all donations are appreciated, Tricia Anne Meyer took to Facebook to share what she learned are the best items to donate from talking to the people who receive them. 

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Here are 20 things you should keep in mind before making a donation to a food bank.

1. Everyone donates Kraft Mac and Cheese in the box, but they can rarely use it because it needs milk and butter, which is hard to get from regular food banks.

Something like macaroni and cheese might seem like an easy and hearty food to make, but that’s not always the case. Make sure the food you’re donating includes anything additional required to prepare it.

2. Boxed milk is a treasure, as kids need it for cereal, which food banks also receive a lot of.

This is another example of making sure all ingredients are included with what you donate. While dry cereal can work for an occasional snack, it’s not much of a meal. Adding in some milk goes a long way. In fact, shelf-stable milk is the most requested food item at food banks.

3. Everyone donates pasta sauce and spaghetti noodles.

Some foods get donated repeatedly because they seem easy to cook. But, that can mean food banks have an overabundance of those items. Try to add some variety to your donations so families aren’t stuck eating the same things over and over again.



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4. Canned veggies and soup cannot be eaten unless you include a can opener or pop tops.

When you’re used to having a can opener within easy reach, it’s easy to forget that some people don’t have that convenience. Many people don’t have can openers and can’t open traditional cans without them.

Try to go for pop tops instead, or simply include a can opener. Taste of Home considers cans that have to be opened with a can opener one of their three items to skip when donating.

5. Oil is a luxury but needed for Rice-a-Roni, which they also receive a lot of.

Some foods seem like the simplest thing to make in the world, but they still require more than what comes in the package.



Oil is rarely seen at food banks, but is needed for many of the foods that are donated, like Rice-a-Roni. Beyond that, oil is essential for most basic cooking needs and although pricier, it can last families much longer than just one meal.

6. Spices or salt and pepper would be a real Christmas gift.

Do you want to make someone’s holiday season? Consider donating spices to season food with. These items are rare at food banks and make meals extra special. The basics can often be overlooked when making donations and spices are no exception.

7. Tea bags and coffee make them feel like you care.

It’s easy to include the essentials in your food bank donation. Things like coffee and tea can get overlooked, but including them shows whoever receives them that you care about the little things and think they deserve a morning cup of coffee just like you do.

8. Sugar and flour are treats.

Often, already-made foods are donated to food banks. Ingredients that can be used to make other meals are easily overlooked. But kitchen staples like sugar and flour are always appreciated and can be used to make more meals in the future.

9. They fawn over fresh produce donated by farmers and grocery stores.

Fresh foods like produce aren’t as obvious a choice for food banks as nonperishables. People typically think of donating canned goods or boxed items. But fresh produce is a treat and is always greatly appreciated.



10. Seeds are cool in spring and summer because growing can be easy for some.

Donating seeds is like paying it forward on an extra level. Depending on the variety, they can be eaten in some situations. But more importantly, they can be used to grow more food. It’s like giving a little extra.

11. They rarely receive fresh meat.

Meat is another fresh food that rarely makes its way into food banks. While it may be an essential source of protein, some people don’t have meat in their regular meal rotation. This makes it a rare treat, and something that is always received with gratitude.

12. Tuna and crackers make a good lunch.

Meals don’t have to be fancy. Even if you feel like you don’t have the means to donate to a food bank, you just might.

things people who get items from food banks want you to know before donatingPhoto: grandbrothers' images / Canva Pro

It’s not necessary to donate something boxed that can serve as a full meal. Something simple like a combination of tuna and crackers works just fine. 

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13. Hamburger Helper goes nowhere without ground beef.

Some foods simply do not work without other things added in. Hamburger Helper may seem like a good food bank donation option, but it’s only one part of a meal. The beef is necessary to make it work.

14. They receive lots of peanut butter and jelly, but usually not sandwich bread.

Peanut butter and jelly is great, but it doesn’t go far on its own. It’s easy to assume someone has something as basic as bread, but that’s not always the case. Making sure all the components of a meal are there goes a long way.



15. Butter or margarine is nice.

Things like butter that can be added to food to add flavor are always good. So many foods can be improved with butter, or even require it as an ingredient. It’s a little thing that makes a big difference.

16. Eggs are a real commodity.

Eggs are nutritious and versatile. They can be a meal on their own, or be added to something else to enhance it. They are always in high demand.

17. Cake mix and frosting make birthdays special.

Your donation could make a child’s day and give them a good memory that lasts a whole year.

things people who get items from food banks want you to know before you donatePhoto: bondarillia / Canva Pro

It’s easy to stick with things that seem essential, but adding in the ingredients for a cake can make a birthday or other special occasion even better.

18. Dishwashing detergent is very expensive and is always appreciated.

Food banks are for more than just food. Other essentials like dishwashing detergent aren’t just welcome, they’re coveted. Products like this tend to be on the more expensive side, so donations are really helpful.

19. Feminine hygiene products are a luxury all women deserve.

It’s sad to think that there are people who don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. These products that make life so much easier feel like necessities to many people. Donating them to those in need will go a long way.



20. Everyone loves Stove Top Stuffing.

Some foods are just universally loved. One of those is definitely Stove Top Stuffing. It’s easy to make, doesn’t require many extra ingredients, and always works as the perfect side dish. This is a classic you don’t want to mess with.

Donating items to food banks, especially during the holiday season, is a wonderful way to give back and show how much you care. Just keep in mind that the people receiving your donations have preferences of their own. Always remember their needs when you prepare to donate.

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Mary-Faith Martinez is a writer for YourTango who covers entertainment, news, and human interest topics.