by Monica Palmer


For years, whenever I walked past a food bank barrel at a school, church or other organization, I always peeked in to see what contributions had been made. It did my heart good to see the food in there, because it was the physical proof I needed to affirm my belief that humans still cared about taking care of other humans. Depending on what horrible stories made the headlines in the days before, I was often in desperate need of this affirmation.


Working for the association of food banks in Missouri has caused me to look at those barrels in a different way. Now, I understand that the dollar I spend for one can of food could have been used by a food bank to buy 5 pounds of food, and it seems like a wasted opportunity to do even greater good.


I feel like I should add that I think food drives are a wonderful thing, and I think they are one of the most powerful reminders that hunger is real and right here. Food drives also provide opportunities for parents to start a conversation about hunger with their children and foster a sense of community. Large scale, organized food drives like those done by the Boy Scouts of America and the Letter Carriers Association are a great source of food donation for the food banks, and because they are well-planned and organized, food banks are able to prepare.


The thing about food drives that most people don’t consider is that small, hastily organized food drives can sometimes create a surprising strain on your local food bank. To begin with, there are often costs associated with transporting the food to the food bank or pantry. Also, because of Feeding America’s high standards of food safety, a huge investment of time to inspect and sort every donated item, because every item is not suitable for donation.


If your organization wants to have a food drive, try to tie it in to a regularly scheduled food drive for the maximum effect. The key is to communicate with your local food bank in advance.


Communication with your food bank ahead of time can also help prevent wasted items by advising you on what items the food bank can accept and what items they must refuse.

Here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when collecting for or donating to your food bank:

1.)  Collect/donate only non-perishable food items.
2.)  Do not collect/donate homemade items.
3.)  Please keep personal care items separate from food items (i.e. mouthwash).
4.)  No glass, please! (Glass can chip and break easily in the barrels.)


Most needed items:

Canned Soup Peanut Butter
Canned Meats Cereal
Canned Fruit Dried Fruit
Macaroni and Cheese Canned Vegetables



Of course, the very best way to support hunger-relief in your community is by making a financial donation to your local food bank and encouraging your friends to do the same. Our Missouri food banks utilize the buying power of the Feeding America network to acquire and ship healthy, nutritious food at deeply discounted rates.