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Giving Thanks & Giving Back

Updated on December 4, 2013

Ideas for Giving Back to Your Community

There's no doubt that the economy still is tough--the worst since the Great Depression--and there are many families in need, in my community and in your community. Here in our suburb and township, the food pantry is struggling to keep up with the needs of those not as fortunate as others. The last time I donated a bag of groceries, I watched as so many seniors filed in for rice, potatoes, oatmeal, fruit, and some meat.

Some folks are quick to say that those who visit food pantries should be looking for a job or don't pull their weight in society. But I think that we should give most people the benefit of the doubt. With a continued 9%+ unemployment rate, many couples are forced to take multiple part-time jobs--without healthcare or retirement benefits--to make ends meet. Just one major illness or accident can result in tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, sending that family into a downward financial spiral.

For our seniors, housing costs and pharmaceutical bills continue to rise, but empty state coffers and a cash-strapped federal government can't increase social security and Medicare benefits, let alone Medicaid payments and funds for affordable, safe senior housing.

There but for the Grace of God go the rest of us.

Please remember those in need and consider giving to your local food pantry, donating time to a local soup kitchen, or donating clothing or money to your local Salvation Army.

Items Needed by Food Pantries

Your local food pantry is always happy to receive any donation. However, the most needed donations include:

  • Canned Protein: This includes canned tuna and salmon, peanut butter and beans. The fats in these items are "good" fats. Protein is important to our daily nutrition and also helps give us a sense of fullness.
  • Dried Rice & Pasta: These complex carbohydrates are essential to expanding a meal to fit a family and to stretch today's meal another day or two. 
  • Oatmeal: One of the most filling and healthy of non-perishable breakfast foods. Consider giving containers of the plain instant Oatmeal instead of the sugary packets. Sugar can only increase hunger while plain oatmeal is more filling, can be combined with fresh fruit and is a source of significant fiber.
  • Canned Vegetables: Canned vegetables are just as nutritious as frozen, plus they have a much longer shelf life. From beans and beets to corn and carrots, all are good as sides or used as ingredients in other dishes. Please consider donating tomato sauces, crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes for soups, stews and other left-over creating foods.
  • Canned Fruit: Canned fruits are a good source of vitamins and, served with cottage cheese or oatmeal, can be a breakfast or lunch. Avoid sugary heavy-syrup fruits and donate lite or lite-syrup.
  • Spices & Herbs: These items are very expensive for food pantries to purchase but are important for adding flavor to everyone's dishes. Ground black pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, Italian seasonings, sage, thyme . . . they all help create meals that can stretch for days.
  • Sauces & Condiments: From soy sauce and ketchup to pasta sauce and jelly, these items are all needed by food pantries to help people create PB&Js, stir-fry, and other meals that we take for granted.
  • Cash: Please consider a cash donation to your local food pantry and/or soup kitchen this Thanksgiving.

Donate to a Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens, usually run by churches or charity organizations, are always in need of cash. In addition to your money or your time, you can call a local kitchen to find out what other types of donations they need. Most need canned goods, condiments, rolls and beverages.

Donate Items to a Homeless Shelter

Another option for Thanksgiving charity is to donate needed items to a homeless shelter. With foreclosures higher than anytime since the Depression, the number of homeless and transient populations will be large again this winter. If you live in even a small city, chances are that there is a homeless shelter operating near you. 

Call first--but most homeless shelters welcome donations of:

  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpaste
  • Underwear
  • Deoderant
  • Diapers
  • Baby Wipes
  • Razors
  • Finger nail clippers
  • Socks
  • Feminine Hygiene Products
  • Anti-acids and anti-diarrheals
  • Soap & shampoo


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