Without donations, many nonprofit groups would not be able to achieve their goals. Charitable organizations like Student LunchBox depend on donations and partnerships with local businesses to provide food to college students.
In the United States, approximately 131 billion pounds of food are thrown away each year. This has widespread negative impacts on society. Food waste prevents hungry people from getting the food they need and makes the labor involved in food production pointless.
Although people contribute to this startling figure by buying more food than they need, there are other causes of food waste. Food can spoil due to errors in production and storage, and many retailers discard "imperfect" foods such as discolored fruits and vegetables even though flawed produce is usually safe to eat.
According to the USDA, the simplest and most effective way to reduce food waste is to not produce a surplus of it. Food production also needs to become more efficient, and what's not used should be donated to food pantries and hunger-relief organizations such as Student LunchBox. More, food that is not human-grade can be used to feed animals, composted, or made into clothing.
The USDA focuses on how big businesses and large-scale food operations can decrease food waste, but individuals like you can also seek to remedy this problem. Start by only buying what you need. If you buy too much, consider freezing your food to eat later or donating it to a local food pantry. The federal government offers incentives to people who donate food to charitable organizations. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 states that anyone in good faith can donate food; if that food turns out to be spoiled or otherwise inedible, the donor will not be punished. Tax deductions are also given to businesses that donate food to nonprofit organizations.
Not all foods are suitable for donation. The best foods to donate are non-perishable or have a long shelf life such as canned soups, fruits, and vegetables. Grains such as pasta and rice are also appreciated. However, donating food you've just cleared out of your pantry might not be the best idea due to its expiration dates and ingredients. If you don't want to eat it, don't assume someone else will—especially college students who need healthy food and, at the very least, palatable food to keep their brains sharp. Many food pantries have specific guidelines on what they accept as donations. Make sure you check your local pantry's policies before donating food.
The holiday season offers many opportunities to donate food. Some organizations will stand outside grocery stores and offer patrons a list of the food pantry needs. You can buy these items along with your regular grocery purchase and drop them off as you leave the store.
Food pantries and other nonprofits survive on donations from generous people. Without them, food banks would not be able to distribute food to hungry people, especially college students. However, this isn't the only way to help. If you're unsure which foods to donate or how to get your food to a charitable organization, you can always make a cash donation.
Here at Student LunchBox, we team up with local businesses in the Los Angeles area and have a team of volunteers distribute food. Without these generous donors, we would not be where we are today. Our volunteers allow us to distribute food quickly and efficiently to college students in need. You don't have to be a local business to donate; if you want to help, you can donate cash via our website and volunteer with us.
This copy was prepared by Allison Norberg, a volunteer at Student LunchBox, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting food insecurity among college students.