© St. Petersburg Times, published October 24, 2001
There are so many organizations that can use your food donations that it won't be difficult to find one near and dear to your heart.
Some of the non-perishable food items needed year-round include:
Evaporated milk, canned fruits, baby food, meats and pastas, instant potatoes, noodles, boxed pasta kits for macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, Hamburger Helper, ramen noodles, pancake mix, instant tea, sugar, jelly, salad dressing, cake mixes, icing, individual snacks such as pudding or fruit cups, potato chips, cookies, stuffing mixes.
Parmesan cheese, cooking oil, instant oatmeal and grits, disposable plates, cups (foam and plastic), cutlery (especially forks), paper towels and sandwich bags. This list comes from the Ronald McDonald House but could come from any organization that feeds the needy. (Note: Some groups don't accept glass containers.) Perishable food items are also needed but aren't as easy to donate because they must be delivered to the organization; call ahead and let the group know what you are bringing. Ideas for perishable donations:
Fresh fruits and vegetables. Don't let the citrus on your trees go to waste this winter; drop a bag of oranges or grapefruits at a nearby shelter. Donate a couple of watermelons in the summer; how about a bag of tomatoes? Look for fruit and vegetables in season, when they are less expensive.
Baked goods. Some organizations accept homemade cakes, cookies and pies. Check before you make them. If they don't, store-bought or bakery items are just as welcome, and most can be frozen.
Dairy products. Butter, cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, yogurt and milk are staples that can be used for cooking or meals. Don't forget ice cream!
Meat and poultry. If your office gives turkeys or gift certificates for turkeys at the holidays, consider donating them. Is ground beef on sale at your market? Ten pounds will feed about 40 people or more in chili, tacos or spaghetti. Have a connection with a butcher? Maybe you can persuade him or her to donate regularly.
One of many organizations that will serve holiday meals to the needy is Metropolitan Ministries, which needs 8,600 turkeys this Thanksgiving and again on Christmas Day. If you can donate one, call (813) 209-1000. All kinds of donations will be accepted at a red and white tent set up on the 2100 block of N Florida Avenue, Tampa, Nov. 12-21 and again Dec. 10-24. Web site: www.metromin.org.
Almost all of us belong to a group of people that comes together regularly: a bridge club, a soccer team, a singles club, a mothers group, a veterans organization. Have everyone bring a canned food item to the next meeting or game.
Talk to your child's teacher about organizing a food drive in the classroom. Make up fliers for the kids to take home rather than leaving that duty up to the teacher. This is a great way to teach children about volunteering.
If your place of employment allows you to collect food there, do it. Maybe you can get your company to spring for a pizza party for the department that donates the most.
Many organizations don't just need food, they also need volunteers to deliver it or cook it. Metropolitan Ministries, for instance, uses hundreds of volunteers each year. Ronald McDonald House has a Casserole Club whose members make and drop off casseroles for the families staying in one of the three houses in St. Petersburg and Tampa. People interested in donating a homemade casserole can call Ronald McDonald family coordinator Lynn Lippincott at (727) 821-8961, ext. 7694, for details.
Many organizations in the Tampa Bay area provide food for the needy. If you don't know of one, call a church office or organizations such as the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities for suggestions. Many churches have lists of social service agencies.
Also, look regularly at your regional section of the Times. Lists of agencies and their needs are printed routinely, as space permits.