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Making A Difference: Food Bank Donations

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With government workers struggling to make ends meet and the polar vortex freezing the Midwest, now is a perfect time to cast our attention to the issue of food insecurity in rural and urban America. Defined by the U.S Department of Agriculture as a lack of “consistent access to enough food to live a healthy lifestyle,” this issue affected an estimated one in eight Americans in 2017 alone. In total, that is around 40 million citizens, over three times the population of Illinois, that are in danger of malnutrition. To mitigate this problem, local food banks have popped up across America.

When donating to a food bank, your first step should be tailoring your shopping list to what the bank needs. Most organizations will have posted donation lists you can check for ideas but there are some general guidelines. When donating, focus on the following attributes first: nourishing, nutritionally dense and non-perishable. The goal here is to provide as much nutritional content as possible in each meal, so avoid foods high in sodium and processed sugar. Items like canned stews, dried fruits and honey can keep for a long time and can often be used to produce nutritious, filling meals.

Your secondary concerns should be on the packaging these items are in. Avoid glass products as these can break in transit, instead aiming for pop-top lids on cans for ease of access. While it may be cheaper, avoid dented cans and damaged boxes. Often these goods cannot be accepted for safety reasons.

Sticking to these broad guidelines will do a lot of good but there are other niche needs you can help fill. Try donating culturally-specific foods like matzo or specific dietary requirements like gluten free items. Many food banks will also accept donations of pet food and feminine hygiene products (unscented pads are often in high demand).

All the products discussed here can make a big difference but they are not the most effective donations. The best donations you can give are your time ASA volunteer and money. Most food banks have deals with grocery suppliers that allow them to buy meals in bulk. It may feel more tangible to donate a few cans but a good cash donation can go even farther. If you are considering donations, the UIS Cares student food bank has a request list on the university website and drop off points across campus.

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Making A Difference: Food Bank Donations