With the rising costs of food and housing in Canada this year, food insecurity and reliance on food banks is at all all-time high. This makes holiday food drives for food banks and pantries across the country as important as ever. If you’re able to help out and not sure what to donate, here are the items Canadian food banks are looking for this holiday season.
High on the list of priorities right across the country are baby items, including cereal, jars and pouches of baby food, formula, snacks and diapers. You’ll be helping support the youngest and most vulnerable members of families in need this season by donating baby items that are becoming increasingly more costly.
Staples like rice, oats, flour and pasta are always in demand, and can be a foundation that families can use to build balanced meals. Other items you can donate in this category are breakfast cereal, granola bars and instant oatmeal.
Fresh, Canned and Dried Proteins
Protein is vital to the processes that fuel your energy and carry oxygen through the body, and is essential for bone, muscle and tissue health. A constant need at Canadian food banks and pantries is protein sources like canned fish and meat, dried or canned beans and legumes, and peanut butter or other nut and seed butters. You can also check with your local food bank to see if they accept donations of fresh meat, poultry and eggs.
Fresh and Canned Fruits and Vegetables
You can’t go wrong with including canned fruits and vegetables in your food bank donations this holiday season. If possible, look for canned vegetables with no added salt and canned fruit packed in its own juice. Some food banks will also accept donations of fresh vegetables and fruit which is either passed directly to their clients, or used for prepared meal programs.
Foods that cater to specific dietary needs, like vegan and vegetarian options, are often overlooked in food bank donations. Whenever possible, try to include items that cater to low-sugar, gluten-free, dairy-free and other dietary restrictions that people may be facing as well, like diabetes, celiac disease and lactose intolerance. Culturally appropriate items also fall into this group, such as kosher and halal foods.
Non-perishable pantry staples continue to be important to food banks, like soup, which can be eaten on its own, added to a recipe or used as a sauce. Along with soups, consider including stews, chilis, pasta sauces and other shelf-stable prepared meals in your donation this holiday season.
While feeding people who are experiencing food insecurity is the top priority at Canadian food banks, there is also a need for household items. Toilet paper, cleaning products, toothpaste, deodorant, personal hygiene products and period supplies are just some of the vital things you can donate in addition to food.
Some food banks will accept gift cards for grocery stores, department stores that have grocery departments and pharmacies. These can be included along with the food packages provided to clients so they can purchase additional items that they need, like bread and milk, or the food banks can use them to buy much-needed food items that donations haven’t covered. We recommend checking with your local food bank first before donating a gift card.
Gifts that Give Back
If you need something for those hard-to-shop-for people on your holiday list, check if a food bank in your area offers gifts that give back. That way, you can purchase something like a school lunch for a class, a meal for a senior or a dinner for a family on behalf of anyone on your gift list and give them a personalized greeting card sharing the gift you purchased in their honour.
Food banks will accept cash donations which can help in a number of ways. Money can be used to purchase food at wholesale rates through their suppliers and partners. It can also go toward fuelling delivery vehicles that bring the food to some clients or pick up large food donations from schools, businesses or community groups.