Unexpected Items Food Banks Need

Food Donations

Hunger is a problem for people all across the country during the holidays and beyond, and donating to food banks is an easy and affordable way to help those who are less fortunate. However, sometimes it can be confusing to know what you should and shouldn't donate.

10 Things Food Shelters Want

To make a significant impact and help meet unfulfilled needs in your community, donate these unexpected items.

Feminine Hygiene Products

Although feminine hygiene products may not be the most comfortable items to donate, poor women are very much in need of them. Imagine having to choose between buying food for your family and purchasing tampons or sanitary napkins. They're among the most requested items at food banks and shelters, but they aren't often donated. Donate wrapped tampons, sanitary napkins, and panty liners to your local food bank. These necessities help people retain feelings of dignity, so a small donation of feminine hygiene products can go a long way.


No, chocolate is not a necessity, but this is humans helping humans here. Nobody loses their desire for treats just because they can't afford them. People who rely on food banks are sure to appreciate a chocolate bar or simple brownie mix with their essential items. Just remember it's best to go with mixes that just require the addition of water.

Rice Milk or Nut Milks

Soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk are listed among the most needed items at food banks across the country. Unlike most dairy milks that have a short shelf life, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, and other nut milks can be packaged in shelf-stable boxes. These boxed milks are often fortified with a variety of nutrients and can be placed in the fridge just before a family is ready to drink them, cook with them, or use them in cereals. Other in-demand milks include flax milk, oat milk, coconut milk, and cashew milk.


Food banks get a lot of basic, bland foods that can be filling and nutritious, but canned foods aren't necessarily full of rich flavors. As such, food bank customers are often thrilled to get a variety of spices for their meals. Salt and pepper are always in demand but think outside the box, too. Donate new, sealed packages of spices and herbs like rosemary, sage, cloves, cinnamon, parsley, cilantro, mint, thyme, and nutmeg.


Many people assume food banks just accept food, so while they may donate jars of baby formula, people rarely think to donate diapers - something that is in high demand for young, poor families! Most food banks are relieved to receive diaper donations, and things like sealed containers of baby wipes and jars of baby food are also appreciated.

Peanut Butter or Almond Butter

Food Drive Box

Protein-rich foods are sometimes lacking among food bank donations, and peanut butter is a shelf-stable food that is family-friendly, too. It's versatile for all meals, and its long shelf life ensures people can get full use of the peanut butter. That makes it popular among families who rely on food banks. Almond butter is also in demand at food banks. Since peanut allergies are unfortunately on the rise, donating almond butter can ensure that even families with peanut allergies can enjoy nutrition like fiber, healthy fats, and protein both peanut butter and almond butter provide.

Boxed Meals

While many food banks get canned green beans and soups, they are not given a lot of boxed meals. These can be nutritious and offer variety to people who are in need. However, keep in mind boxed meals that call for a lot of ingredients like egg, butter, and oil will be useless if the family cannot afford the extra ingredients. Stick to boxed meals that require only water.

Cat and Dog Food

If you have a pet, you likely know how they can become members of the family. Donating pet food can mean a family doesn't have to face surrendering its beloved pet to a shelter because they cannot feed it. While not all food banks accept dog and cat food, many banks do and find pet foods are desirable items.

Granola Bars

Most people think about canned foods when donating to food banks, but children are in need of more than basic staples. For one thing, kids whose parents rely on food banks are sometimes short of yummy snacks to put in their kids' lunchboxes. Granola bars are healthy but also fun and delicious. Other kid-friendly items to donate include sealed juice boxes, raisins, dried fruit, and shelf-stable yogurt.


Swishing with mouthwash each day can help maintain oral health and even prevent diseases like gingivitis. Without enough money for groceries and necessities, some families may do without, and that could compromise a child's dental health. By donating mouthwash to a food bank, you can help protect the dental health and overall well-being of families in need.

Giving to Food Banks

Giving one or more of these things can make life easier for someone who's having a hard time financially. Just remember food banks across the country have various policies about which donations they can accept. Whether you want to buy a lot of food or donate a few different things, it's best to check with your local food bank before buying and delivering items.

Unexpected Items Food Banks Need