Food Bank Donation Tips

My college has a food bank for students.  You have to show a student ID, fill up your bags, and then sign and date a paper, with optional checklist to indicate what types of items you took.  Every two weeks you can get a bag of toiletries, and you can either get one bag of food a week, or two at a time if you only come in every other week.  Not long into the semester, they offered me a tote bag, which made it much easier to visit because I could carry the food with me to class without embarrassment, versus having to hike way back to the car and hide it in my trunk.


I don’t think I ever filled my bags as full as I could have, even taking fewer than the allowed amount of bags some weeks when I was feeling particularly guilty about being there.  Over the past semester I’ve made several observations about suggestions I could make to people donating to a food bank.  These are especially applicable in a college setting, but the general ideas apply elsewhere too.

  • Please choose packages that have individually wrapped items inside them.  For example, instead of family-size bags of chips, get one of the variety packs of single-serving bags.  The food bank will split them up so people can take just a few and more people will get some.
  • Granola bars go quickly and there’s always demand for those.  Usually there’s enough oatmeal to go around, but consider cream of wheat, which also comes in single-serving packets.
  • Reconsider the choice to donate a bunch of canned vegetables.  Everyone donates the canned vegetables, and there’s an overabundance of them.  Think about more unusual vegetables (maybe asparagus?  hominy?), beans, and fruit.
  • Many people may not have reliable access to a refrigerator and/or stove.  Think about items that are in smaller packages to reduce leftovers, and items that can be eaten uncooked or microwaved.
  • There’s usually lots of soup, but if you’re willing to spend a little extra (or find coupons or a good sale), the single-serving soups in the microwavable containers would be really nice.
  • Dried fruit.  Just fruit in general, but things like raisins and fruit leather are rare to find and would make a great snack when people have to rush between classes all day.
  • Please no ramen.  I know you can buy a huge bundle of them for a very low price, but the idea of the food bank is for people to get at least somewhat healthy foods they can’t afford.
  • The microwavable cups of pasta and cheese are very popular.  There’s usually a good supply of those, but how about the similar cups of instant mashed potatoes?
  • Toiletries are wonderful, but would be even better if people could donate a wider variety.  There’s always plenty of shampoo, conditioner, and soap/body wash.  There’s plenty of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant, and a lot of these items last for quite a while.  Mouthwash is pretty rare, as are floss and the little floss picks.  I have never seen Q-tips there, and those can be bought in little travel packs that would be good for donations.  Also, travel packs of tissues.  As someone with extremely curly hair, I can say some of us would be very grateful for cans of mousse to tame the curls.
  • Also consider cleaning supplies and baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula, etc.)  Even in a college, there are plenty of parents with young children, and this would be even more true in the wider community setting.

I started forming these ideas as a mental list, so that once I graduate and find a steady job I can go back and donate all the things I wish they’d had while I was a student.  Hopefully others will find these suggestions helpful as well.


One thought on “Food Bank Donation Tips

  1. Those are great ideas! For those of us wanting to help, sometimes you just don’t know what things might be the most wanted or needed so having some guidelines is very helpful!


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