The Surprising Dos and Don’ts of Food Donations

March 1, 2021

When we help our clients organize their kitchens and pantries, we are often asked to facilitate donations as part of our organizing and downsizing services. These donations often include excess or unwanted food. When members of our Richmond team donated hours at our local food bank over the summer, we gained many insights from being on the other side of the hunger epidemic.

Yes— we said epidemic. One in six U.S. citizens doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. Financial instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic has caused unemployment and food insecurity to rise. Feeding America says more than 50 million people may face hunger because of coronavirus.

If you are able, please consider supporting your local food bank, community pantry, or backpack program. While every donation is welcome, some items are more needed than others.

Top Tips for Donating to Food Banks

  • Remember to include add-ins or also-needed supplies, especially for quick-mix boxed foods (popular donations at food banks).
  • Everyone donates macaroni & cheese in the box, but it needs milk & butter to prepare which are hard to get from food banks.
  • Try to buy/donate canned foods with pop-tops OR donate can openers.
  • Food banks get lots of peanut butter and jelly but NEED sandwich bread.
  • Oil is a luxury! It can be used to prepare many boxed meal kits like Rice a Roni.
  • Hamburger Helper goes nowhere without ground beef.

Everyone donates pasta sauce & spaghetti noodles. Consider donating more creative/rare items like:

  • Boxed milk
  • Spices, salt & pepper
  • Teabags & coffee
  • Sugar & flour
  • Butter, margarine, and oil
  • Eggs
  • Cake mix & Frosting
  • Fresh meat

Non-food items are welcome too!

  • Dishwashing soap and dishwasher detergent are very expensive and always appreciated.
  • Seeds are great in spring & summer because growing can be easy for some.
  • Feminine hygiene products are a luxury.

Our friends at Double Comfort Foods— whose mission is to provide a revenue stream to food pantries so they can feed people and end the cycle of poverty— know all about the needs of our local food banks. Now headquartered here in Richmond, they donate 100% of the profits from sales of their artisan foods to organizations that combat hunger. They told us:

The most requested items at food banks are proteins. Peanut butter and canned tuna are great because they need no refrigeration. Most pantries seem to get a lot of produce these days as the logistics have greatly improved between large grocers with day-old produce and food banks. Although not food, the next items that leave pantries swiftly are diapers and feminine hygiene pads, and tampons. Small toiletries from hotels are also super helpful.

To find local food banks, community pantries, or backpack programs, Feeding America has a comprehensive search engine linked to zip code.