Have you wanted to help feed the hungry but haven't quite figured out how to go about it? This year I only have so much energy as I'm going through my cancer treatments. Maybe you don't know where to start or feel you have other things holding you back. Instead of getting frustrated by your limitations, make them work for you! This December 21, plan on feeding the hungry in one of these 5 ways as part of #LIGHTtheWORLD
Host a Canned Food Drive
Food pantries are always looking for donations. Instead of donating only a few of your own cans, why not host a canned food drive in your neighborhood? Don't worry if you aren't great at making fliers, many food pantries have pre-made ones that you can use. Include ideas for donations so people know what's most needed at the moment. Did you know that a lot of food banks will even take expired food and old boxes? They can recycle the old boxes and use the money to buy more meals for people.
Take it a step further and make your food drive into a scavenger hunt! Get your youth group together or a group of families from your neighborhood on the night you are ready to collect the food. Give everyone a scavenger list of items to collect and see who can get the most points! You can make your scavenger hunt with a list of specific foods or things like heaviest item, most unusual, biggest collection of the same item, etc.
Make a Meal for a Sick Friend
If there is one thing I know, it is how appreciated a home cooked, warm meal is when you are sick. Is your neighbor under the weather or is there someone from your church staying at the hospital? Ask what day would be most helpful for you to bring some food (and find out if there are any allergies). Use the Dinner on Your Doorstep printables and conversation cards to make it that much more special.
Have limited time to cook? Make a freezer meal for your neighbor instead. You can prepare it when it is convenient for you and they can warm it up when their need is the greatest.
Hand Out Lunches to the Homeless
Donate lunches to a food pantry or plan to hand them out to the homeless yourself. You can keep a nonperishable lunch in your car to give out when you see a need or get a group together to hand out lunches at a place you know there will be homeless people. When we handed out our lunches, we went in a group to a park downtown where we knew we would find people. We ran out of supplies fast! Need ideas of what to include in your lunches? Here's what we put in ours:
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (it lasts a few days)
- Chips, crackers
- Mini muffins
- Granola bars (protein ones are especially great)
- Pack of gum
- Gift cards to a fast food restaurant (great for warm meals later)
- Hand warmers
- Raisins, fruit cups, apple sauce pouch, piece of fruit
- Water bottles, juice box, sports drink (the sports drinks were really popular when we went)
We used the extra large paper lunch bags so we could really stuff them full. You can make the lunches one day and hand them out on another. Keep in mind that most of your food should be nonperishable so they can use the food as needed. Another big need for the homeless is socks. You can pack a few granola bars and other snacks inside the socks for an easy to give package. During the colder months, they also appreciate gloves, hats, hand warmers, and scarves.
Since I can only do so much, I had to split our Feed the Hungry service project into two days. One day we prepared the lunches, the next day we handed them out. The best part? It allowed for more people to join us! Those that couldn't come Friday, came Saturday instead. It wasn't a limitation, it allowed for more!
Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen
Call your local food kitchen and find out when you can volunteer to help serve a meal. It's a great way to get involved in your community and serve without too much preparation on your part. Many will allow you to create a regular schedule to volunteer as well. Don't know where to find a soup kitchen near you? Check out JustServe.org.
Drop Off Grocery Gift Cards at Neighbor's House
The holidays can make any budget tight, especially for those that had their hours cut back or lost their job. Buy a gift card from your local grocery store to surprise one of your neighbors. While food donations are appreciated, gift cards allow your neighbors to buy what their family really needs when they need it.
Money tight for your family as well? Get a few families together to make a donation. Each family's small contribution will make a generous gift together.
Remember to spread some light as you feed the hungry. Print out my gift card envelopes or tags to use as you serve. You can attach the tags to the lunches for the homeless or use the envelopes as a gift card holder. Planning to leave your gift at the door anonymously? Slip a rubber band through a hole at the top of the tags and place it over the door knob.