This holiday season, families across the country will set their tables to come together and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. For many of us, the holidays wouldn’t be complete without a turkey and heaping sides of stuffing and mashed potatoes on the table. But for the millions of families who struggle with hunger, celebrating the holidays can be tough.
If you want to get into the spirit of service for Thanksgiving, donating food to your local food bank is a great way to help your neighbors create meaningful holiday memories.
Here’s how you can help a family put a holiday meal on the table this Thanksgiving:
Where to donate food for Thanksgiving
The first step to donating a Thanksgiving meal to a family facing hunger is finding your local food bank. The Feeding America network includes over 200 food banks throughout the United States that work with food pantries and soup kitchens to reach communities. Once you find a food bank near you, you can find drop-off information, operation hours, and even the most needed items.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some food banks may not be accepting food donations or may have specific requests. Be sure to follow your local food bank's guidance on what they need most this holiday.
The items food banks want most during Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is one of the business times of the year for food banks. Healthy, non-perishable food is always great to donate to a food bank but is in even higher demand around the holidays. While you’re grocery shopping or collecting for your holiday food drive, look for items such as:
• Boxed stuffing
• Instant mashed potatoes
• Canned vegetables
• Dry macaroni
• Cranberry sauce
• Canned Pumpkin
What to avoid donating for Thanksgiving
Because food banks need to maintain high safety standards, leftovers/cooked food from your holiday meal should never be donated to food banks. The Feeding America network of food banks’ food rescue program works with restaurants, caterers, and manufacturers to donate leftover food that is guaranteed to be fresh and safe for families in need.
While donating fresh fruits and vegetables may seem like a great way to help families put healthy food on the table, it is better to skip donating highly perishable items. Food banks often work with farmers and corporate partners who can help bring fresh produce to families before it goes bad. Other items to avoid donating are food nearing their expiration date, foods very high in fat or sugar.
How to donate a Thanksgiving turkey
Similar to donating fresh fruits and vegetables, you should skip donating a Thanksgiving turkey to your local food bank. Because raw turkeys are highly perishable and must be refrigerated or kept frozen, safety standards make such a donation impossible. But, that doesn't mean your local food bank won't be providing Thanksgiving turkeys to people facing hunger in your community during the holidays. Many food banks work with local suppliers and grocery stores to ensure turkeys are available to our neighbors who wouldn't be able to afford them this holiday.
Instead of a turkey, ask your food bank what they need most - that may be a cash donation or it may be Thanksgiving sides like canned corn, boxed stuffing or cranberry sauce.
How to do even more to give back this holiday season
Still feeling inspired to continue helping families? Here is how you can continue to make an impact in your community during Thanksgiving.
• Host a holiday food drive
• Volunteer at a food bank
• Start a Fundraiser for Feeding America
• Consider becoming a monthly donor