This year like last year we are working in acts of kindness for advent and one of them is to donate to a foodbank. Donating to a foodbank is a really visual activity to do with children and it can make a massive difference to families and people in need. However, if you are anything like me you will always wonder what to give. So I put a shout of to one of my friends who actually knows about this. Let me introduce you to Kate.
“Do you want to actually help or do you just want to try and impress the other mums?”
Ouch. That was me about two weeks ago, or at least that was my husband talking to me. It was the Harvest Festival at our son’s school. In my head I’d seen this as a perfect parenting moment to teach my son about the needy, to choose some practical foods together and talk about giving and kindness. Reality check and it’s the last day to give in your donation and I’ve done nothing. I wanted to hand over a big bag of helpful stuff. Actually all I had in the cupboard was three tins of value beans. I felt kind of embarrassed with myself. I felt that the beans should at least be a brand or something, what would my son’s teacher think?
“They need beans. If you really want to help, send them in.”
Of course my husband knows better than me on this one, and that’s not something you’ll normally hear me say, but until recently he was the manager of one of the busiest food banks in the UK. This time last year they had 7,200 people on their books and gave out between 500 and 600 bags of food to people in need every week. This isn’t a big, national charity either, it’s just a small charity run by the Church my husband worked for.
What to donate to a foodbank
So what should you give?
Of course all donations are appreciated, but like me stressing in front of my cupboards I know most people want to know that what they are giving will actually help people. Despite donations from individuals and supermarkets, my husband’s foodbank still often had to buy things in bulk that were the bits they were lacking or the things that got requested a lot. As he is the specialist rather than me I asked him what the most useful things are to give.
- Tuna – It’s packed full of protein and can be cooked as part of a meal or eaten straight from the can
- Things with ring pulls – Yep, This is probably one of the biggest tips I can give you! Homeless people often don’t carry tin openers due to the amount of stuff they have to carry around so if the tin of food you give doesn’t have a ring pull on it then they might not be able to eat it. Such a little thing that can make a difference!
- Baby formula. As anyone who has formula fed a baby knows, formula is a big drain on your finances. This is a great way that you can support poor families with young kids.
- Nappies. Yep, same thing. No one should be worrying about how often they can afford to change their child’s nappy or if buying a new pack means less food that week.
- Chopped pork or corned beef. These both used to be cheap sources of protein but the price of them has really risen. They’re super versatile as like tuna, they can be used as part of a meal or can be eaten cold.
- Baked beans. And yes, apparently the value ones are more than ok to give!
- Tinned curry. A great way to help people have a nice meal with some flavour in it. They also often contain some vegetables in them which is helpful.
- Irish Stew. This is also something that gets requested a lot.
- Kids snacks. As all parents know, kids can eat a lot and need topping up with food regularly!
- Pot noodles. A good source of protein and carbohydrates.
- Big Soups. Tinned hearty soups need to be better nutritionally than others.
- Rice Pudding. Stodgy, filling and very popular.
- UHT Milk for people who don’t have access to a fridge.
- Financial aid rather than sleeping bags. If you want to give a sleeping bag for a homeless person then it’s very much appreciated, but food banks and homeless centres don’t always have a lot of additional room for storage though and can also often get deals when buying sleeping bags in bulk, meaning that your money can go further. My husband’s guess was that in his experience most homeless people will get through two or three sleeping bags each winter too which means they need to be replaced pretty often.
- Help throughout the year. Your help and support at Harvest and Christmas is really, truly appreciated, however please don’t forget food banks through out the rest of winter. January, February and even March can be exceptionally cold and people living on the street or in poverty need your help just as much then.
Kate Williams is a mum of two crazy superheros and a specialist in how much tea it takes to keep functioning. She blogs easy to make kids crafts and shares real life parenting advice on her blog Crafts on Sea and can often be found sharing cool ideas on her Facebook page, or just the stuff that keeps her going when her kids refuse to sleep.