What Food Banks Really Need

Happy Fall!

Our Smoky Mountains are getting all dressed up for the season. God has swept His paintbrush through all the reds, golds, and oranges to create what should be a spectacular display.

This is also when food banks ask for extra help to stock their shelves with donations. Sometimes they struggle to feed everyone who needs assistance. During the holidays, food banks work hard to have those traditional items on hand: turkey, ham, canned yams, stuffing mix, and pumpkin pie.

Locally, First Baptist Church supports Sevier County Food Ministry, an interfaith organization that helps feed thousands of people annually. In their own words:

"In 2022, Sevier County Food Ministries gave out over 47,320 bags. On average, we served about 934 families per week. An average household includes three people. We especially help people living alone and couples, with over 60 percent of our grocery bags built for a family of one or two persons.
A bag usually includes a dozen or so items and is based on family size. Everybody gets eggs, and we try to provide a protein like sausage or chicken – whatever is available. Cans of green vegetables, corn, beans, tomatoes, and fruit are in most bags, along with a combination of mac & cheese, corn muffin mix, pasta, ramen, and saltines. We try to give out peanut butter and canned meat as often as possible.
Many of the folks we assist are on a fixed income. Some are on assistance. Quite a few have taken in one, two, or even more family members or friends. Most are just down on their luck. A bag of groceries helps."

You can help by buying items in the Ministry's Thrift Store (They'll take your donations there, too!), donating to the food pantry, or giving a monetary donation.

But what should we donate? What do they need? We often think of peanut butter, jelly, soup, mac 'n' cheese, cereal, or ramen noodles before other items. Consider these suggestions:

  • That mac 'n' cheese needs milk and butter, so boxed or instant milk and shelf-stable butter or vegetable oil could help with that.
  • Boxed milk is a treasure, as kids need it for the boxes of cereal they get (in addition to helping with that mac 'n' cheese).
  • Tea bags and coffee can make someone feel like you care.
  • Tuna and crackers make a good lunch. The tear-open pouches or lunch kits are terrific.
  • How about sandwich bread to help make that PB&J?
  • Cake mix and frosting will make a child's birthday cake. 
  • Spices or salt & pepper combos are great to receive.
  • Feminine hygiene products are a luxury; women will cry over those.
  • Everyone loves Stove Top Stuffing.
  • Ensure the canned item has a pull-top, or donate a can opener.

Sometimes, the simplest things -- a can opener, a shaker of salt, a tea bag -- can help cheer up someone feeling down or forgotten.

The next time you go to the grocery store or local market, pick up an item or two to donate to the Sevier County Food Ministry. And when you drop off that bag of food, say a prayer asking for God's blessings upon the family who receives it.

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