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The Keys to an Effective Food Drive in Manassas

This year, make the most impact when donating to your community's Thanksgiving food drive.

Credit: Piedmont Patch
Credit: Piedmont Patch

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Almost as dependable as turkey and pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time are community food drives, often organized by schools, churches, and even employers to help out fellow Americans in need.

I remember going to the pantry as a child and plucking cans from my mom’s impressive stockpile. Into the bag went canned hominy, powered milk and any creamed soup. (I was also motivated by the desire to purge our shelves of the foods I hated and not only by the spirit of giving.) Never would I give up cereal, fruit cocktail or pudding. What a punk.

Recently, my own daughter announced that she needed food for her school’s canned food drive. Before she had the chance to weed through the paltry cache in our cupboards, I invited her on a trip to the grocery store. It was time to buy food that would be enjoyed by others as much as by my family.

We wanted to make the most of our donations, so I did some research on the best – and worst – items to give. Here’s a breakdown:

What to give: This will vary between organizations, so ask before you fill your bag. According to Jeanne Traugot with City Harvest, their “most needed items include: canned fruit, canned vegetables, peanut butter (plastic jars), macaroni and cheese (packaged), and hot and cold cereal.” They don’t accept any non-food items, but other organizations do, so a little research may be in order. A package of Huggies or specific toiletries may be high on the list of your local food drive.

Don’t skimp: If possible, go for family-sized containers and quality ingredients. Over 50 million Americans are facing food shortages. That’s one out of every five of us.

Examine your donation: Many organizations cannot accept items that are expired, cans that are dented, or anything with a broken seal. I also noticed that pop tops are often preferred, as are plastic containers over glass ones.

Keep it going: Unfortunately, hunger sticks around after the holidays are over. If you want to keep up the fight all year long, click here for Feeding America’s food bank locator to find a place to give during any season of the year. Click here for tips on organizing your own food drive. And, of course, financial donations are always useful.

Do you participate in a community food drive? Tell us about it the comments or in a blog post.

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