It's no surprise that everyone is feeling pinched by the economy right now. Gas prices are through the roof. Food prices are at near record highs. A few days ago, the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act Conference Report was up for a vote in Congress and it passed in both the House and Senate, in spite of Representative Mark Kirk's (R-IL 10th) vote against it and President Bush's promise to veto it. Luckily, this bill should be veto-proof.
A crucial element of this Act is that 2/3 of the money in the farm bill would go to public nutrition programs like food stamps. Did you know that there are 27.7 million Americans on Food Stamps, that in Illinois 1.3 million people are on Food Stamps or in the WIC program (the largest number ever in the State) and that the average food stamp recipient lives on less than $1 per meal (yes, that's ONE DOLLAR PER MEAL)?
One way people with low incomes stretch their food budgets is with the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs provided through the schools. With school about to end for the summer, however, these programs will also be on hiatus, putting an additional strain on families.
Food pantries provide a safety net for entire communities. Because of the economic recession, more people are relying on food pantries than the in recent times - including more and more "middle class" people. As a result, food pantries across the country are finding their shelves empty and need your donations.
In addition to accepting non-expired, non-perishable food items, many food pantries also accept personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, diapers, etc., but you should call your local food pantry to confirm they accept these items. UPDATE: As Gourmet Goddess states in her comment below, some food pantries also accept pet food and pet care items. Please call your local food pantry before you bring a big bag of Alpo over, however.
In Wheeling Township (where I live), our food pantry is in need of quite a few items that I've listed below:
canned tuna fish
vegetable oil and olive oil
sugar (small size)
canned fruit - all varieties
canned meat products such as chicken, hash, ham
coffee (small) and tea
dry milk/canned milk
dried beans and dried peas
dry soups including Ramen
canned or packaged gravy
jams, jelly and honey
macaroni and cheese
pancake mix and syrup
potato products and yams
rice (1 lb bags)
Personal Hygiene Items
toilet paper (2 or 4 roll pkgs)
laundry and dish washing detergent
diapers - sizes 4, 5, and 6
shampoo and conditioner
feminine hygiene products
If you don't live in Wheeling Township, I encourage you to call your local food pantry, see what is needed, and then make a donation.
What if we all went through our own pantry and dropped 5 or 10 items off at the local food pantry? Certainly we won't starve by donating a day's worth of food, but it could keep someone else from going to bed hungry.
Update: Today, while grocery shopping, I used a bunch of buy one, get one free coupons and will be giving the free items to my food pantry. Just a thought.