What You Can Do to Help

So far I’ve been focusing on finding resources for our members and referents who find themselves in need of food, education, or maybe just something to help pass the time. But I know from several phone calls, emails, and Facebook posts we also have people who are willing to give, help, barter, support, and otherwise make sure their brothers, sisters, and kin are not forgotten. What can you do?

Since you can’t get together in person, reach out via phone, text, email, chat, social media, Facetime, Skype, or whatever other electronic methods you may have. We all need social interaction, and while face to face is better, digital is better than nothing. If you haven’t heard from someone in a while, reach out to them. Ask them how they’re doing, if they need anything, what they’ve been doing to pass the time. Anxiety and depression are already a pretty big problem, and this situation is not helping that. For a lot of people, simply knowing someone cares about them will go a long way toward stabilizing their mental state.

Less personal in nature, more helpful to the community in general, is food bank donations. A few days ago I posted contact information for various food banks in our jurisdiction so our members and referents could make sure their families are fed, but there may be some of you with either an excess or the ability to purchase and donate items. Food banks are currently being inundated with requests for assistance, and their supplies are running low. Most of them are asking people to stay home rather than volunteering so they can keep in-person contact to a minimum, but they are perfectly willing to accept donations. Many of them will pick them up curbside when you drop them off.

Food items needed include all the usual things… pasta, rice, cereal, oatmeal, canned fruit, canned vegetables, peanut and other nut butters, soups, dried beans, dried fruit, spaghetti sauce, complete boxed meals, juice, canned meats, boxed potatoes, honey, dried milk, crackers, sliced bread, bags of apples or potatoes, and the like. It’s best to avoid items packaged in glass jars or cellophane wrappers because they tend to get damaged after being handled by the number of people it takes to put together food bags. You should also avoid items that need openers or special equipment to make, as often the people who receive the goods do not have access to a kitchen. If possible, try to donate boxed mixes that only require adding water.

In addition to the normal things, consider food items that a lot of people wouldn’t think of. Cooking oils. Dried spices and herbs. Boxes of tea bags and/or instant coffee. Salt and pepper. Flour, sugar, and shortening. See if you can include some things easily prepared by children. Throw in some granola bars or other snack items for kids.

Some food banks will accept non-food items as well. These are fantastic to donate because they cannot be purchased through WIC or SNAP, but everyone needs them. Toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, diapers, baby wipes, feminine products, cleaning supplies, hair brushes and combs, paper products, socks and underwear, and hand sanitizer. I realize some of those items are worth their weight in gold right now, but right now it’s more important than ever that everyone practice proper hygiene and cleanliness, and that is impossible if you don’t have the means to do it.

You know what else food banks almost always need? Plastic and/or paper bags. Zip-top bags. New plastic containers. Plastic gloves. Stuff in which to put donated items so they can be given to those in need. I bet they could also use cleaning and disinfecting supplies for their own use as well.

Lastly, some pantries accept pet food, collars, leashes, and toys. There are also a few pet food banks, as I mentioned in the post with all the food banks.

Many food banks actually prefer you donate cash rather than actual items. They tend to have arrangements with local stores, or matching donations from local businesses, or other means of getting a discount on food. All of which means they can stretch a dollar a LOT further than you can. Also, having cash on hand allows them to supplement the non-perishable items on their shelves with meats, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and dairy items. You don’t have to give a lot! As you see above, even $10.00 will provide a lot of food. I’ve read several places it costs somewhere between $1.00 and $2.00 to feed a family of four through a food bank.

Before you decide to donate any physical items, please contact whatever food bank you choose to find out what they in particular need most, what items they do and do not accept, and protocol for donations. If you’re planning to donate money, most of them have a website through which you can give, but if you call them I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to help you give them money.

United we stand, divided we fall… we’re most often used to hearing that in discussions about collective bargaining agreements, but it’s true in everyday life as well. We are all in this together, and we can help each other get through it.

Be safe. Be well. And most importantly… WASH YOUR HANDS!