The easiest way to help those in need who don't have enough food is to donate food to a food bank or food pantry. Buy the food, bring the food in, smiles all around, and then you leave.
The best way to help those in need who don't have enough food is to do what works best for you. For those with money but not much time, buying food and bringing that food to the food people works out well. If you have time but not money, consider donating your time at a food bank or food pantry.
My day job allows the employees to take a day to do volunteer work in the community. Naturally, I picked something food-related and helped a local pantry unload donations from a food truck.
You want to have a good breakfast before you help unload food from a food truck. You need your strength, and you'll be surrounded by lots of food. Unless you work in a grocery store or a restaurant, you've never seen so much food. Fruits, vegetables, breads, eggs, milk, fresh produce, and lots and lots of cans.
I wasn't sure where the food on the weekly truck came from, but I did notice the delivery in a van from a nearby Trader Joe's, and lots of Trader Joe's brand foods.
The regular volunteers and the employees had a intricate system for where the food was supposed to go and how that food should be stored.
We often think of people needing food as those who have apartments and kitchens, but just don't have food. Some have shelter but no access to cook, and of course, some don't have shelter.
Sliced bread may have been the greatest invention since sliced bread, but if you don't have a knife, sliced bread is better than having regular bread.
I spent part of my day stacking up cans of green beans. They wanted to make green beans a "blue light special" since the government liked giving green beans to food banks but people didn't want to take them. We stacked a lot of cans with the idea that people could take as many cans as they wanted. It's easy to say that people shouldn't be picky; too often, if we donate food that we don't want, chances are other people don't want that food either. We should rethink what kind of food to donate to food pantries based on taste, interest, and shelf-sustainability where a kitchen wasn't an option.
The food pantry had so many condiments in a food pantry: ketchup, barbecue sauce, marinade, and honey. We are told that honey can't go bad. But when refrigeration is only a theory, having honey can be extremely useful … and taste good.
For those who can cook, I stacked a lot of spaghetti on the shelf. Dried foods such as spaghetti, beans, and rice, are valuable because they can be kept around longer.
They wanted me to check for mold in sorting the bread. I noticed expiration dates, but none of the food I saw was expired. If you do donate food, double check the expiration dates. Having to throw out expired food makes the job of food sorters that much tougher.
In stacking the food, you don't get to see the faces of those who need help. Food pantries need volunteers there too. You might be more comfortable dealing with complete strangers, others prefer less interaction. Pick whatever works best with your personality.
You might think working with a huge amount of food would discourage people from donating because there were so much food. We forget the huge numbers of people struggling to get food basics on a daily basis, especially in a large city. Those who fell from the middle class are the fastest growing segment, but certainly not the only ones who need help.
I wrote a few columns on the joys of giving food when I was unemployed, and food donations still matter. The satisfaction you get from volunteering, especially when food is your passion, was something I couldn't put into words, and I deal with words all the time.
Know your strengths and give accordingly. If you have time over money, food pantries still need your help. Not just now in the holiday season, but year round. Doesn't hurt to start right now.