Food Banks: What You May Not Know

Food Banks: What You May Not Know

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Did you know that before the Covid-19 pandemic 37 million people in the United States Struggled with hunger? Food banks help both adults and children meet their food needs. But, the pandemic only made it worse…

Food Banks: What You May Not Know

Today, more than 40 million people are food insecure. This means that food banks must supply more food to those in need than before the pandemic.

With food prices increasing, food banks having to ramp up their inventory, and more people struggling, it’s even more important that you stock up on food and supplies for your own family.

However, if you are struggling, there is no shame in using a food pantry or food bank to get the food your family needs. Here’s what you may not know about food banks:

Food Banks and Food Pantries are Not the Same

Food pantries are government or non-profit organizations that distribute food to people in need. Food banks, on the other hand, are warehouses that store food donated by manufacturers, retailers, and growers. Food banks then distribute the food to pantries, soup kitchens, and other agencies.

In other words, food pantries give out the food, and food banks supply the food, in most cases.

There are more Food Banks Than You May Think

The Feeding America network is the largest hunger relief organization in the United States. They have a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. This means that no matter where you live in the United States, there is probably a food bank or food pantry near you.

Food Banks: What You May Not Know

You Don’t Have to Be Unemployed or on Food Stamps

Food banks are available to anyone who needs them, regardless of employment or food stamp status. All you need is a photo ID. The food bank provides a safety net for those who need it most.

With no requirements on who can use their services, they serve anyone – from children in urgent danger of hunger to seniors living on limited retirement funds.

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Most Food Banks Have an Online Portal

If you’re not comfortable going into a food bank, you can often find an online portal where you can request food. The food will then be delivered to you. In fact, you can fill out an application on America’s Virtual Food Bank website and have food delivered directly to your door. These resources may be different based on location, so check out what’s available in your area.

There are Food Banks in Every State

No matter where you live, there is a food bank that can help you. Food banks are located in every state, as well as Puerto Rico. To find a food bank near you, visit Feeding America’s website.

Food Banks Provide More Than Food

In addition to food, many food banks also provide other resources, such as:

  • Hygiene products
  • Baby formula
  • Diapers
  • Clothing
  • School supplies

They Have Special Programs for Seniors and Veterans

There are food banks that have special programs for seniors and veterans. These programs make it easier for these groups to get the food and other essentials they need. For example, the Food Bank for New York City has a Homebound Delivery program that delivers food to seniors who can’t leave their homes.

You Can Donate to One

If you’re not in need of a food bank but would like to help, you can donate to one. Food banks always need donations, whether it’s food, money, or time. To find a food bank near you that you can donate to, visit Feeding America’s website. Near our home, one of the grocery stores has large bins close to the entry doors so people can donate their non-perishable food items on their way out, or bring things from home to donate.

Money Donations Go Further Than Food Donations

When you donate money to a food bank, they can use it to buy the food they need in bulk. Many food banks and pantries have access to lower-cost supplies than you or I. This means the cash donation goes further than you might think.

For example, The Food Bank of Eastern & Central North Carolina reports that $10 donations provide 50 meals for those who need it most. Additionally, they can also use monetary donations to pay for things like transportation and storage.

You Can Volunteer

If you have some extra time, consider volunteering at your local food bank. Most food banks are always in need of volunteers to help with tasks such as sorting and packing food, conducting quality control, and distribution.

What Food Banks Need

Food banks have said that a cash donation goes further than a food donation in most cases, but if you can’t donate cash, they take a variety of items to help those in need.

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What to Donate:

If you want to help your local community, here’s what food banks need the most right now:

  1. Soups– Hearty meals like chili or stew are needed for those with food insecurity.
  2. Canned meat– Things like chicken, tuna, ham, and even Vienna sausages.
  3. Canned vegetables– Potatoes, collard greens, corn, carrots, spinach, and peas can all be helpful.
  4. Canned fruit– Individual fruit cups are also accepted. Just make sure there are no damages to the container.
  5. Spaghetti– One of the cheapest and easiest meals for those in need is spaghetti with sauce.
  6. Rice– Any rice works, including the 90-second rice packets.
  7. Instant Food– Things that only require water to make such as mashed potatoes, biscuit mixes, and instant oatmeal are helpful.
  8. Cereal– The food bank is asking for healthier cereal choices, if possible.
  9. Peanut butter– Any nut butter works, especially crunchy.
  10. Spices– Seasonings and spices like cinnamon, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper are rarely donated.
  11. Snack items– Things like Cheez-Its, graham crackers, animal crackers, juice boxes, applesauce, and granola bars are great snacks for kids.
  12. Infant Items– The food bank needs formula, infant cereal, diapers, and wipes for infants.
  13. Toiletries– Toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, pads, tampons, and chapstick are needed as well.
  14. GLUTEN-FREE– If possible see if there are items that are GF for those with special dietary health issues.
  15. No or Low-Sodium Cans of food– There are a lot of people who must restrict their salt intake, it would be wonderful if they could pick up those items they need with less salt.

What Not to Donate:

Although these storage centers appreciate all donations, there are a few items they just can’t accept. These items include:

  1. Anything that needs to be refrigerated.
  2. Homemade food.
  3. Glass or plastic jars of baby food.
  4. Expired food including canned goods.
  5. Food without a label.
  6. Damaged food or packaging.
  7. Perishable foods, such as fresh fruits and veggies.

How to Start Prepping

Although donation banks and food pantries are great resources, they are not always reliable sources for your food needs. What happens when they run out of food and donations? Make sure you are prepping and stocking food, now! Here are some ways you can start:

Final Word

No one should have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Food banks provide a vital service to those in need. If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out to a food bank near you. But, my best advice is to stock up on food and water before you get to a point where you are struggling. Food banks are a great resource, but they are not always reliable.

I hope this article has opened your eyes to what food banks do and how you can help. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I would love to hear from you! May God Bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Food Box AdobeStock_473328457 by Alliance

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  1. Linda, great information! Here in NW Florida, we have seen a great increase in food giveaways in the last year, especially in the more rural & low income areas of our county. They have gone from quarterly to once or twice a month. Many local small businesses are also putting up Blessing Boxes outside the business. We have a lot of homeless & elderly on very limited income in our area.

    In addition, many churches also have food pantries. Our church has been providing grocery essentials for over 500 families a week most of the past 2 years & have quarterly drive through giveaways.

    We contribute food items to our church pantry, but also shop for some friends who are housebound. I just added another potato bed to the garden so I hopefully will be adding those to their food supplies in a couple of months.

    PS! I demonstrated vacuum sealing to a small group over the weekend. Several of the couples have decided to invest in their own vacuum sealer & get more serious about increasing their dry staples in their pantries. I also brought a sample ‘pantry pack’ I’ve been creating for my non prepping friends & had a lot of interest from several folks in doing the same for their families and friends.

    1. Hi BDN, oh my gosh, this is such a great idea, the “pantry pack”! I LOVE it! Oh, I bet your class loved the vacuum sealing class!!! Squeal!! I love hearing this. I really hope people know about the resources for food, whether giving or receiving. What a blessing for both sides of the food bank! Linda

  2. I have volunteered at our local food bank and learned that they accept canned food beyond the
    “Best Buy” date. Your readers might want to check with their local food banks to see what their policies are.

  3. I think there is great diversity in food distribution places/organizations and much of this depends where a person lives. I’m rural, Up North, and I gotta say, food shelves are few, with a lot of miles between. Most have Rules: like, appointment required, county residency, a signed slip from the county human services office, family info on the sign~in sheet…that being said, they still get used a lot by people but truthfully, a lot of people who could use them don’t: for instance, if I needed to use one, I would have to go to the county office (office only open m~f, 9 to 4:30), request a food voucher, then make an appointment (seldom can be the same day) . Requires two trips. I live over 20 miles from there, but can’t use one that is only 7 miles away as that’s in a different county. A person can only go to these food shelves once or twice a month (family size dependent). I think there aren’t many country people who use these, sigh, just due to the travel. The other option here for cheap food distribution is an organization called Ruby’s Pantry. I recently went to one of their events, after not going for over a year. $22 for a good supply of foods, over a $100 worth. No requirements and there are 4 towns around me where the monthly events happen.
    Ok, so that’s rural compared to where my older sis lives in the city. She has found one that gives out fresh veggies, salads, one or two meat items, breads…all donated by grocery stores. They limit how much a person can take but a person can go there Every Day, nothing asked. Less than a mile away is a food pantry where a person can get baking stuff and canned goods. Again, no requirements except a limit each time, as can attend daily. Oh, there’s still other food shelves but they only allow once a month with ID.
    One thing good about these days of smartphones is a person Can find resources but it does take a bit of time. It’s good you wrote about this. Lol, I posted about Ruby’s Pantry on another fb site and I couldn’t believe the number of likes and comments. A lot of people sharing the names of food distribution organizations where they live, which was cool.

    1. Hi Wendy, oh I’m so glad you mentioned Ruby’s Pantry on FB. We need to get the word out to those who need it. It’s sad that it takes such an effort where you live. Most people will not sign up, or can’t drive to sign up or make an appointment. If they have trouble buying groceries, they may not have the money for gas to drive 20 miles each way. That really is too bad. I know they have rules, but people are hungry. Thank goodness for Ruby’s Pantry or other organizations. Linda

  4. Food banks are something that we donate money to. First is our church and then our local food bank. I know what it’s like to be hungry as the majority of my childhood was spent that way.

    1. Hi Paula, we appreciate the food banks because we know what it’s like to need food or to pay monthly bills. What a blessing that we can pay it forward. It’s a blessing for both giving and receiving. Linda

  5. We have food banks here, but as long as I can afford to buy food, I’ll abstain. I do donate to them though.

    1. Hi Deborah, I totally agree with you. My thoughts about sharing today’s post are to make people aware they can donate, help at the facilities, or tell people about food that is available. Linda

  6. One of my cousins is a single mom (widowed) of three, she works full time but does not make enough to buy all the groceries she needs for herself and the kids. She receives food stamps and even does what she can to stretch it by buying what is on sale in conjunction with using coupons, which helps some. The problem is food stamps only buys food and nothing else. It is not enough to pay for healthy foods, much less foods for a child with severe intolerance to gluten and dairy, which is priced higher than “normal foods”. I found several food banks for her in her area which she utilizes and uses the foods she and her kids can not use (due to diet restrictions) to barter. There is another lady at her church who has four kids and is also on food stamps. This lady and her kids are not on a restrictive diet so she uses what food stamps she has leftover to buy the “special” foods my cousin needs for her kids.

    Some people may say that it is unethical what she does, but she is doing everything she can for the health of her children while struggling to pay off the debt that accumulated after her husband’s passing. She is doing all this while prepping, which is no easy task.

    My point is sometimes people have to think outside the box in order to provide for a diet restrictive family.

    1. Hi Ravenna, oh I’m so sorry she is a widow with three children. I do not think it is unethical to help another one with needs. The food stamps are to help those in need. If they trade food or whatever, it’s a blessing to help. I always say behind every front door, there is a story. I can’t imagine having to lose your husband, having to work many hours to put a roof over your head and put food on the table. God bless her for doing everything she can. Linda

  7. Hi Linda:

    I agree with Ravenna. We have a food bank in the town we are closest to and one thing I disagree with Ravenna is that I would not consider what the lady at her church is doing unethical. I praise her for her helping another person to get what she needs for her family. What I consider unethical is when people come to the food bank and take it home and sell it to family members so they can get booze or drugs. I know a lot of the people who pick up food at the food bank here and do that and I just quit going because I did not want people thinking I did that also (I am a recovering alcoholic and have not had a drink in 48 years). We used to live on my VA pension which was just under $2,000 & my husbands $800 VA Pension for over 30 years. We payed our bills and and bought groceries for 5 people and did not ask for anything from anyone. We didn’t have a lot but we had friends give us game meat and we would make a meatloaf out of 1# of hamburger and crackers soaked in milk. Now that my husband gets Social Security we are doing the same. We payed off our house about 2 years ago so we don’t have that bill but I lost my VA pension when he got his Social Security. I too am trying to prep for what is coming. Not necessarily for us but when we leave this earth there is going to be a lot of people hurting and maybe they will find what we have left behind and I have a 8ft shelf in my office/library that is filled with Bibles and Christian Books so that they will have a chance to find my Yeshua Jesus (I am a Messianic Jew) and find their place in heaven.

    1. Hi Jackie, I had no idea people go to the food bank and sell the food to get booze or drugs. WOW, that is interesting. Congrats on 48 years without a drink!! Way to go, my friend! I love the comment, crackers are soaked in milk, oh my gosh, I used to do that to stretch a meal!! Great reminder! Linda

  8. Linda, our local food bank will not accept canned goods beyond their best by dates. I consider that tragic as that food is good for many years beyond that date.

    This article and the comments were full of great information. I’m curious though. 37-40 million people here in the US need these food banks? That’s more than 10% of our population.

  9. I go to a small church and I was in charge of the food pantry. One thing i did different was I did not write down any names as to who received food from us. I know the Food bank around here takes your name and address and you have to show a ID., I did not want to do that. Also for a while I use to get food from the local food bank that has a delivery
    to another local church and while I was sitting in line waiting to be given my food, people would drive by and look
    at us, like we were begging for food, so I made sure that no one had to go through that. I usually took the food to the people or I would meet them somewhere and we would put the food in their car and no one knew what we were doing.
    People should not feel ashamed to ask for and receive help. I did have to give up the Food pantry do to health reasons
    and no one else would do it, so it closed up. Asking for help is a strong thing and it does not show weakness.

    1. Hi June, oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment. You are so right, asking for help is a strong thing and it does not show weakness. It’s too bad that Food Pantry closed, so sad for the people who need it even more now. Shame on anyone who would make others feel guilty for picking up food to feed their family or others. The blessings are reaped for both the giver and receiver. Linda

  10. I am not sure how it happened, but at the start of the pandemic lock down here in my area, somehow, our local food bank put everyone who lives/lived in my senior apartment complex on their delivery list! The first time they delivered to me, I refused the order as A) I had not ordered this; B) since I am pretty well prepped I did not need it; and C) I am financially OK so I was able to purchase my own food as needed (not always what I wanted when I wanted it but…). They said that they could not take the order back as it had frozen foods and perishable fruits/veggies in the boxes. I tell you, I could have lived for at least 2 months on what was in the 3 boxes they left with me. So, what I did was disperse these to a family from my church. I tried to get off the delivery list but was unable to for about 7 months. So, my family from church ate well.

    One of the main things that I did notice about the boxes of food, however, was that most of the canned/boxed food items were way past the Best By date. I mean some were 3-4 years past. That was somewhat alarming to me.

    1. Hi Leanne, I’m glad you mentioned this about the food bank delivering food way past the best buy date. Some in Utah say they take expired or way past the best buy date. Every county I have lived in will not take it. Washington County and Salt Lake County. That is very alarming to me as well. We are trying to give food with good nutritious food value. The older the canned food gets, it does in fact deteriorate. It’s wonderful you were able to disburse it to other church families. The food banks do in fact give a lot of good food to families. I have seen on FaceBook what some of the families are able to get. It looks like a lot of food and most are fresh meat, fresh veggies, and fruits. Linda

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