What sort of food stuffs should I donate to the poor?

I always donate cans, but last year I had sort of an epiphany. A can of soup will feed one person for one meal, maybe two. It seemed kind of pointless. So last year, I donated things like flour, sugar, and salt. I figure that even though you can’t eat these things instantly out of the package, you can use it to make food and it will last a long time.

Was that a good idea? I’m thinking of donating similar things this year.

Pastas and pasta sauce are always good. Cans of different types of beans/legumes would go far as well.

Cans of creamed corn is always nice.

Canned meat, like tuna, salmon, spam etc. Many, really poor going to the food bank type folks, have a hard time affording protein foods…

In addition to canned goods, I try to donate a boxed cake or brownie mix. I figure they’re easy to make and may provide a welcome treat to a family who wouldn’t normally have dessert.

Or pet food. ( I always worry about the poor animals). I don’t know if they want pet food, but if I have spare cans when I drop off a bag at the church, I’ll throw them in…Flour, sugar, and salt are theoretically excellent ideas, but I have to wonder if cooking skills have declined so much over the years, would staples like that be put to good use? Reading about healthy diets, cost of food, etc. I don’t know that a poor family would know what to do with a bag of flour, unless they had a grandma living with them.

Where are you making your donations? My church is one of a group of churches that work together to collect and donate food. I’d estimate that quarterly there’s an update on the bulletin board saying right now we’d like canned pasta (with pull off lids, please), or any extra peanut butter and jelly would be appreciated.

Maybe you could contact the group you’re donating through for suggestions.

One thing they ask for besides food is trial/hotel sized toiletries. I never would’ve thought of that if they hadn’t put it on their flyer.

I’m donating through work. They have some big boxes for people to put stuff in. Last year they actually had a list of suggestions, which is where I got the flour and stuff from. This year there are no lists.

I’ll try some of the stuff you guys suggested, thanks.

Most food banks have a list of suggested items, things that are going to give the biggest calorie/protein/nutrition bang for the buck. Second Harvest Food Bank here in my city provides this list:

canned fruits, canned meats, canned/dried beans, rice, macaroni & cheese/pasta, and peanut butter.

I pulled this from the Toronto area food bank website ‘most needed items’:

*  Baby formula & food
* Beans & lentils
* Canned fruits &
  vegetables
* Canned fish & meat
* Cans of soup or hearty stew
* Dried pasta & tomato sauce
* Macaroni & cheese
* Peanut butter
* Rice
* Tetra Pak, canned or powdered milk

Most of this stuff seems to be things that can be eaten without needing other ingredients.

One thing about brownie mixes and the like-a lot require you to have other ingredients like milk and eggs, and the recipient may not have any or enough to spare for a cake mix. So maybe the ‘add water only’ sort would be an option. A yummy option!

This is from the NC Food Bank most needed list:
Canned Meals: Stews, Soups, Tuna, Ravioli, etc. (Pop-top cans a plus!)
Peanut Butter
Cereal
Canned Fruits and Vegetables
Rice, Pasta and Dried Beans
Hygiene Items: Toothpaste, Shaving Items, Soap, etc.
Infant Products: Diapers, Wipes, Formula, Infant Cereal
(Please - No loose glass and plastic jars of baby food as they will have to be discarded due to health regulations)
Paper Products: Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, etc.

Another reason not to get ingredients is that many people don’t have the equipment to make a meal out of them. They may be able to make a mean pie, but not have a pie plate, a mixing bowl, or an oven.

I take it only stuff that doesn’t spoil fast is wanted. Basic spices are good. After you can’t buy stuff for a long time spices all get used that you have. Dried pastas are good. Pasta kits with the cheese sauce, tomato sauce or spices are good. Unopened sealed packages of sausage logs and some cheese are good. Cooking oils are good. Baking mixes and frosting are good. Canned fruit like pineapple or fruit cocktail is good. Anything you would buy that doesn’t spoil is good.

If your doing non edible stuff it sucks to not have shampoo and conditioner. Toothpaste and fluoride gels would be great. Get deodorant non scented if you can too.

Coffee and toilet paper.

I have always donated tampons and menustral pads. They are usually given immediately to a food pantry client who is overjoyed to get them. Instant coffee and fruit drink mix are also good.

The reason for pre-made food is that some people using the food bank have limited access to cooking appliances (whether because they are staying in a motel, or because their electricity has been turned off, etc).

Of course others do have access to such appliances, so staples are also useful. I think that both have their place.

I try to give Pineapple. I remember from reading an old thread on this topic that it is the most desireable canned fruit.

I think pet food & menstrual productsare great ideas! Especially the former, as pets are often the first to suffer when their owners lose a job. I’d allso add products like Depends to the list.

I get some products through my work. I’m going to ring a pregnant friend this afternoon to see if she wants to hold on the nappies until her child is the appropriate size. If she doesn’t, I’ll donate them to a local child abuse charity.

Also, back when I had spare cash & donated to our local foodbank, flour & other baking products weren’t that popular with the needy. Some couldn’t cook & some didn’t have access to ovens.

When I volunteered at the Greater Boston Food Bank, sorting donated items, one of the things they said their clients liked the most was coffee. Even if the can is dented, people will just puncture it with a screwdriver and pour out the coffee inside.

Here’s a list from another Food Bank: Instant Oatmeal (single serving boxes), Cereal, Jars of Spaghetti Sauce, Spaghetti Noodles, Soup, Baking Mixes, Noodle Side Dishes, Tuna, Apple Juice (100% fruit juice), Flour, Sugar, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Macaroni and Cheese, Canned Fruit, Laundry Soap, Toilet Paper, Paper Towels, Feminine Products, Shampoo,Toothpaste…

From what I’ve heard . . . anything but canned green beans.

On a related note, what should I buy for the homeless guys who hang out near my dorm?

I’m guessing they would need nonperishables that require no preparation? One possibility might be splitting up a case of Ensure or Boost or the generic equivalent. They’re kind of pricey (I paid about $6 for a case of 6 Boost yesterday, and that was on sale), but they’ve got some nutrician value, they’re sweet, and since they’re liquid they don’t require teeth. If chewing isn’t a problem, granola bars or packages of nuts might be good, or (not technically nonperishable but they keep well) apples. (I’m not an expert on this issue, but I’m basing this on some experiences I’ve had with acquaintances living in difficult circumstances.)