Did you know that summers are the hardest season for community food pantries? Donations run high during the holiday season (Thanksgiving through Christmas) with another surge during Lent and Easter. It’s wonderful to see Christians celebrating the birth and resurrection of our Savior by “feeding his sheep.” Sadly, donations fall just as the need for food rises each summer.
Some reasons for the decline include families:
- Vacationing out of town and away from their local organizations
- Dealing with their own increased grocery bills, since no one’s eating at school
- Generally being busy with the kids home all summer
However, the demand for food donations increases in the summer. Schools provide needy children free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunch all academic year. Now, with their kids home, many parents struggle to feed their families.
What Items Do Food Pantries Need Most?
First and foremost, food pantries need a higher volume of non-perishable, unexpired donations in the summer. Let’s think about who food pantries serve. Children and the elderly, being unable to work, are hardest hit by poverty (source). Both of these groups have distinct dietary needs.
Feeding the Elderly
Many elderly individuals deal with chronic diseases of the kidney or heart, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Therefore, their diets must limit salt and sugar. Some suggestions are:
- Low sodium soups
- Low sodium canned vegetables
- Low sodium canned tuna
- Canned fruits packed in water (no syrups)
- No sugar added peanut butter and jelly
- Low sodium crackers
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
- Unsweetened cereals
- Old fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal
Children have distinct dietary needs, which I’m sure you as parents understand. I’m sure you understand their finicky palates all too well. Children need familiar, easy-to-make foods, including the occasional treat. I understand the reflex to donate only vegetables and whole grain products, but children living in poverty deserve the occasional special dessert or snack too.
- Single-can meals, ideally pop-tops, to be prepared without the help of a grown up.
- chunky soups,
- other protein-packed favorites.
- Single-serve snacks to pack for day camp or the babysitter’s house.
- Treats in single-serve packaging for portion control.
- chocolate-chip granola bars.
Please consider the special needs of these two populations the next time you give. As always, if you’re not sure what to purchase, ask your local agency. The hearts of believers, and shelves of food pantries, overflow at Christmastime. But cupboards and stomachs are empty this summer.