The items you choose to include will ultimately depend on your budget, but below are some ideas to help you come up with a plan.
Remember, the bags that you use for the care packages can be useful to homeless people as well. So if you’re using plastic grocery bags, consider double bagging the items so that homeless people can re-use them to carry other items.
Also, if you are including toiletries – or any type of lotion or fluid that isn’t food – be sure to package those items separately from any food products, so that the food doesn’t end up tasting like soap or sunscreen.
When handing out food to homeless people, remember to distribute the items as a group, to keep you and your colleagues safe.
- Bottled water
- Beef jerky
- Trail mix
- Applesauce, in single-serving containers
- Pudding cups
Foods to avoid
- Hard candies
- Sticky candies
- Hard nuts
- Crunchy granola bars
Numerous volunteer agencies recommend against including hard nuts or crunchy granola bars because a homeless person most likely does not have access to regular dental care and eating hard items like these can be painful if they have untreated or unresolved dental issues.
Remember to package these items separate from the food items, so that the food doesn’t end up tasting like lotion or soap:
- Lip balm
- Hand wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Unscented lotion
- Dental floss
Seasonal Comforts and Necessities
Depending on your geographical location or season:
- Wool caps
- Travel mugs
- Reusable water bottles
- Gift cards
- Band aids
If you google phrases like “food pantry most needed items” or “food bank items to donate,” you’ll see a variety of Top 10 lists and tip sheets. What they typically will do is break things down into food items and non-food items, along these lines:
High-priority food items:
- Canned meals such as canned soup, raviola or other pasta meals.
- Canned meat, such as tuna, salmon or chicken. Think bland – children often won’t eat more exotic-tasting items like canned sardines.
- Canned fruits. This can include peaches, pineapple, pears or fruit cocktails.
- Gluten-free items, such as rice-based cereals, rice, various kinds of packaged chips and popcorn that are labeled as gluten-free.
- Fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables, potatoes, apples and oranges.
- Basic pantry items are very useful, such as rice, flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pepper.
- Powdered milk. Milk can be difficult for many low-income families to keep cold, but powdered milk can be stored in a pantry as a backup.
- Juice boxes are convenient, good for children and can be stored at room temperature.
Non-Food Items To Donate
- Household cleaning supplies, such as dishsoap, hand soap, sponges, wash clothes, bleach, sanitizing wipes and paper towels.
- Feminine hygiene products, such as tampons, pads, panty liners and feminine wipes.
- Baby diapers and wipes (unscented is best, in case of allergic reactions or skin sensitivity).
- Other baby items such as baby soap, shampoo and diaper rash cream or new baby bottles.
- Socks, underwear and warm sweaters.
Tips for donating
- Check the expiration dates and make sure the items are not expired.
- Of course, make sure the items have not been opened or used.
- If you can afford it, think of buying items to donate, especially high priority items, like canned tuna, chicken or ravioli, that food banks often need but don’t get enough of.
- Remember that people in need of food often don’t have more than the very basic essentials for preparing food. They might have some pots, but not necessarily a crock pot or toaster oven.
- Self-contained meal kits that don’t require extra ingredients. There are some pasta dinner boxes where the pasta and the flavoring are both included, for example.
- Pancake mix that uses only water and no other ingredients, such as milk, eggs or vegetable oil.
We are launching a new site to help people organize volunteer projects for their community.
We will be providing step-by-step tutorials, with actual examples of various projects you, your family and friends can do.
Our site is very new. We launched Oct. 7, 2019. We will be adding many new articles soon.
This site was inspired by my experience from the invitation of a family friend.
Many people stray away from the thought of helping their communities because they simply do not know what to do or they back away from the typical idea that long hours of volunteer work must be put in to create any effect. However, helping your community does not always require long tasks such as these and it does not need to be “boring” either.
The friend invited a party of us and turned what could be perceived as a tedious task, creating care packages, into a fun and involving mission.
Each of us paired up and was given a stipend to search the stores for foods and goods. We returned to their home and everyone laid their non perishable items on the table.We got to grouping and packing, and set out again to find people in need.
The reactions of the homeless people was nothing short of emotional. We truly take our blessings for granted, and experiences such as these are eye opening. It really makes an impact on peoples’ lives when you take a little time out of your day to let your actions speak that you care for them.
Please consider creating care packages and cultivate your love for the community.