What to give…

If you donate to a food shelf or community pantry or other such service for the needy, you probably have seen lists of what is most needed and what to NOT donate. I’ve certainly seen these lists, but they didn’t really resonate until I found myself in the position of needing such services as SNAP benefits (“food stamps”) and food shelves.

Most people probably know that SNAP benefits cover groceries only, meaning “no prepared foods,” of course, but they might not know that this also means “no kitchen supplies.”

This can leave people with full benefits but no income in a weird pinch with certain items. Example: coffee. You can buy coffee with SNAP benefits, but not coffee filters. Or baking: SNAP benefits will cover all the ingredients needed to bake something, either from scratch or using a mix, but you can’t buy a disposable foil baking pan (or muffin tins), or aluminum foil, or plastic wrap/bags or a tupperware container to put your baked goods in to keep them fresh once they’re made.

This list will give you an idea of items that SNAP benefits DON’T cover, and they’re great things to donate to a food shelf/community pantry.

Also, when donating food, especially perishable items (bread, meat, produce, dairy, eggs, etc): don’t donate non-frozen items that are close to or past an expiration date, for two reasons. One, unless it’s frozen, it may go bad FAST; and two, a lot of people who take advantage of these services feel bad enough about doing it without getting sketchy food that is on the verge of going moldy, rotten, etc. I’ve sometimes gotten an unspoken “oh, they’ll be happy with whatever they get” attitude from people who donate food. No, “they” won’t, and in fact “bad” food will probably just make them feel worse.

Also, good gawd: don’t donate opened packages of stuff that you tried and didn’t like. Come on. Really?


Here’s my list of ITEMS THAT AREN’T COVERED BY SNAP BENEFITS which, of course, will be tremendously appreciated if donated:

Aluminum foil
Aspirin or aspirin substitutes (Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, etc)
Baby powder
Baking supplies (foil pans, muffin cups, etc)
Coffee filters
Cold meds
Contact lens care items
Cotton balls
Dental floss/picks
Dish soap
Disposable utensils/cups/plates
Eye drops
Feminine hygiene products
First aid supplies
Freezer bags
Household cleaning products (Lysol, Windex, etc)
Laundry detergent
Lip balm
Over-the-counter cold and allergy meds, pain meds, etc.
Paper towels
Plastic or pyrex resealable food storage containers
Plastic wrap
Razors and blades
Rubbing alcohol
Saline solution
Sandwich bags
School supplies
Sewing kit
Shaving cream
Toilet paper

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