The holiday season is a time for giving. It is tempting to drop off holiday food items to food banks, soup kitchens, and canned food drives to provide those in need with a taste of the holiday spirit. It is fun to pick out goods that you enjoy and think about how much those in need will appreciate them. This well-intentioned approach is, unfortunately, flawed. A holiday meal is appreciated, but after the season has passed the hunger will return.
Here are three things to keep in mind when you donate to food-related causes this holiday season:
How many cans of cranberry sauce does anyone really need? Well-intentioned donations of certain food items may not always be appropriate. After the holidays are over, the themed food that goes along with them gets old quickly for those receiving the donations. Pumpkin puree isn’t a practical, everyday item for feeding a family. Staples are more important than fun, specialized foods.
Giving food may not be the best way to feed the hungry. Consider donating the amount of money you would have spent buying food to donate. The organization can then use this donation to buy foods that they know their clients need at a bulk discount rate. Giving food may produce a better visceral feeling for the donor, but monetary donations go further and offer more flexibility.
Everyone else is donating now, too. Understandably, the holidays are a huge time for donations to food banks and soup kitchens. While donations are always appreciated, this influx of donations cannot sustain organizations throughout the year. Consider saving your donation for the summer offseason when food banks get less support. Or, better yet, set up a recurring donation so that your organization of choice can count on a steady revenue stream to fund their ongoing operations.
Give with your head and your heart this holiday to maximize your impact and joy.
If you’re looking for more resources, Feeding America offers comprehensive information about hunger in the U.S. and information for finding a food bank near you.
Original contribution by Clarissa Coburn.
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