CannedFoodAs Thanksgiving approaches and with Christmas arriving shortly after that, many of us begin to turn our attentions to providing for those less fortunate than ourselves.  While food banks and food pantries have food and supply collection needs all year round, we typically begin to hear more about food shortage needs during the holidays.  While well meaning, sometimes just cleaning out your pantry of “unwanted” or “unused” canned good extras doesn’t necessarily help the food banks as much as you think.  A little more forethought and understanding of what banks really need can go a long way to truly help those in need.  We found a great comprehensive list that we’d like to pass along.

What Food Banks Really Need:

      1. CASH: Many food banks and pantries have access to lower cost supplies than most people do,  so a cash donation may go further and they’re able to get exactly what they need.
      2. Canned meats: Think beyond tuna & soup, which food banks get tons of. Instead go for canned beef, canned ham, canned chicken, canned salmon. Or hearty ready-to-go meals like beef stew and chili with meat.
      3. Canned vegetables: Everyone donates green beans. Instead, give potatoes, carrots, spinach, peas or any other veggies your family likes.
      4. Canned fruit: Not pineapple. This is the most commonly donated fruit. Any other fruit, particularly those in fruit juice without extra sugar, would be great. Dried fruit works too (raisins, etc.)
      5. Boxed meals THAT REQUIRE ONLY WATER. Hamburger Helper isn’t helpful if you don’t have hamburger.
      6. Low-sugar cereal like plain Cheerios
      7. Peanut butter
      8. Instant oatmeal, instant grits
      9. Cans of beans
      10. Pasta, pasta sauce
      11. Biscuit or baking mixes (again that only require water)
      12. Cans, cartons or boxes of powered and evaporated milk
      13. Snack items for kids to take to school: juice boxes, applesauce containers, granola bars
      14. Diapers in sizes above newborn, plus wipes
      15. Toiletries: toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste, lotion, shampoo & conditioner, Chapstick (consider someone living outside this time of year)
      16. Feminine hygiene products: unscented pads will be most universally used, not tampons
      17. Spices like cinnamon, oregano, basil, salt, pepper
      18. Sliced bread. It’s got a long shelf life but always goes immediately.
      19. Bags of apples or potatoes. These also go very quickly.
      20. Thick, warm socks
      21. Consider donating reusable sturdy shopping bags. Supplies are heavy plus it takes a lot of humility to come to a food bank. Since they’ll likely be walking home or taking public transportation, it’s nice to at least blend in.


  • A lot of people have diabetes in this group. Consider low-sugar dietary restrictions.
  • Some food banks have a recording (or a live person) who will explain their top needs of the moment by phone.
  • Cans and boxes are sturdier than bags. By the time families are receiving the food, it’s been handled A LOT and packaging needs to be strong enough to hold up. One food bank said never bring anything in glass, ever.
  • Pop-top cans are ideal; particularly for those living on the streets.
  • Think about weekends and school breaks. Kids who qualify for free lunches typically receive breakfast at school too and when schools are out for holidays or summer, these families need more support.

We found this information very useful and informative and hope you do as well.  We’ve been very excited about the partnership we’ve enjoyed with Food Bank of the Rockies over the last couple of years and hope you consider joining in their efforts to fight hunger in our state. We will definitely let you know about volunteer opportunities with RSS and this great organization in 2018.  Here’s to helping those with less have a very happy holiday season!