What options could be estimated? Salt, pepper, olive oil, and vegetable oil are some obvious staple foods. But don’t be afraid to add for example allspice, paprika, saffron, cinnamon, parsley, mint, thyme, nutmeg, cumin, basil, sage, turmeric, cayenne pepper, dill, onion powder or rosemary. For related staple foods, such as flour, try adding allergen-friendly options like almond flour or gluten-free flour. Nutritional yeast is another staple food for many dairy-free people that isn’t cheap but generally lasts awhile in the pantry. In the case of liquids, consider storage-stable non-dairy products such as rice milk, hemp milk or oat milk. Cooking fats like sesame oil, peanut oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil can also go a long way.
And to be clear, hungry people are hungry people. There is nothing wrong with craving a dessert or making a festive treat for someone’s birthday or other special day. Donating baking chocolate, cake mixes in boxes, chocolate chips or nut butters such as peanuts, almonds or hazelnuts can help. Vanilla extract can be surprisingly expensive at the grocery store, but donating even a small bottle can be enough for many recipes.
Spices and spices can be particularly important for families with children. Why? Because it can help develop a young person’s taste buds and expand their interest in foods and preparations. While children in wealthier families can be introduced to a variety of foods and flavors provided they try just a bite of a new ingredient or meal, low-income families (literally) cannot experience the food option afford waste when kids in the house shrink away from a new dish. However, having the seasonings and condiments available for free will at least save the initial cost of a few dollars (if not more) for each item.
While it’s obviously not for humans, it’s worth finding out if your local animal shelter accepts pet food or provides donations. Many people love their pets like family, but pet food can be expensive. If your local donation location accepts pet food and accessories, consider donating dry or wet food, trash, or toys for furry friends. You can contact your local animal shelter and likely figure out what exactly they need (kitten formula versus dry dog food, etc.).
Capitalism has told us for too long that low-income people should just be grateful for oatmeal and stale bread. But in the time of giving (and honestly all year round) we can make a small contribution to donation for the happiness and autonomy of people by bringing those in need the same food and ingredients that we actually buy for ourselves would. Because if there’s one thing food pantries shouldn’t be, it’s a drop off point to clean the back of your pantry.