How Can I Help?
You can help in at least five ways: By advocating for SNAP and federal, state, and local food monies, by donating food, by volunteering, by donating goods that SNAP won't pay for, and by giving money.
Use this poster to ask for uncommon items like pet food and cooking oil. Click for a letter-sized printable version.
What to Donate
Here is a list of items people need but don't usually receive because donors don't know about the need:
- Boxed milk is a treasure, as kids need it for cereal (which they get a lot of).
- They cannot eat all the canned veggies and soup unless you put a can opener in, too, or buy pop tops.
- Oil is a much appreciated luxury (and needed for Rice-a-Roni which they also get a lot of).
- Salt and pepper is a real gift. Ditto for spices.
- Tea bags and instant coffee are good.
- Sugar and flour are great.
- Tuna and crackers make a good lunch.
- Everyone loves Stove Top Stuffing.
- They get lots of peanut butter and jelly but usually not sandwich bread.
- Cake mix and frosting makes it possible to make a child’s birthday cake.
- Dishwashing detergent is very expensive and is always appreciated.
- Feminine hygiene products are a luxury. Same for men’s grooming products.
- Fresh produce is much appreciated.
- Seeds are cool in Spring and Summer because growing can be easy for some.
- They rarely get fresh meat. Hamburger Helper goes nowhere without ground beef.
- Butter or margarine is nice too.
- Eggs are a real commodity.
From a Facebook post by Tricia Anne Meyer
Food donations are covered under the federal and NY state Good Samaritan laws. Click here for more information (from City Harvest).
To donate food, find a pantry or soup kitchen near you and make an appointment to drop food off. Some pantries don't have refrigeration or freezers, so make sure they can accept what you want to bring.
In season, many pantries will accept fruits and vegetables from your garden, although some won't be able to store fragile fruits and vegetables (for example, raspberries or baby lettuce) for more than a day. Try to pick and deliver the same day that the pantry or soup kitchen is open. For more information about garden donations, see the AmpleHarvest.Org website.
Keep in mind that financial donations are helpful since emergency food providers (pantries and soup kitchens) can buy food at steep discounts and by doing so, fill in gaps in the pantries. For example, they may have shelves of powdered mashed potatoes but no tuna fish or other proteins.
To set up a food drive, contact us at hungeronstatenisland -at- gmail.com.
You can also run a food drive through City Harvest.
Community Gardens: Community gardens and backyard gardens could be, and in some cases already are, a summer and fall source of fresh fruit and vegetables for Staten Island pantries. Resources:
- GrowNYC has "Grow to Learn" (http://www.growtolearn.org/) programs for the schools.
- For information about urban farming, see the Black Urban Gardeners' website, https://www.blackurbangrowers.org/.
- Plant a Row for the Hungry offers advice: https://gardencomm.org/PAR.
- NYC Parks Green Thumb initiative provides land and materials. See https://greenthumb.nycgovparks.org/.
- Gardens can get small grants from http://ioby.org and http://kickstarter.com (for example, see http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gardensofgratitude/100-garden-challenge-planting-100-edible-gardens?ref=live).
- AmpleHarvest.Org connects home gardeners with local pantries.
Emergency food providers always need help in these areas:
- Food distribution--helping people get their food
- Registering people, usually on a computer
- Managing the lines and enforcing the rules
- Cooking and serving at soup kitchens
- Loading and unloading trucks and vans when City Harvest, Food Bank, or other organizations make a big delivery to the Island
- Driving your truck, van, or SUV to pick up food from local supermarkets, bakeries, and grocery stores
- Grant-writing and reporting
You can volunteer at your favorite emergency food provider or at Meals on Wheels of Staten Island (volunteer drivers especially needed), or sign up with one of these organizations to go wherever you're needed on the Island:
- New York Cares (groups of volunteers organized by NYC)
- Hunger Free America (volunteers interested in food issues)
- RSVP/SERVE, which matches individuals 55 or older with volunteer opportunities (contact Project Director Tami DiCostanzo at 718-494-3222 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Some emergency food providers also distribute personal hygiene items, pet food, clothing, and books. SNAP doesn't let people buy personal hygiene items (toilet paper, tampons, baby diapers, adult diapers, soap, and so on) or pet food, so these types of items are in high demand. Pantries can't buy them either with their government grants. Click here to see the USDA's rules for what you can and cannot buy with SNAP.
Baby formula is also needed--although SNAP and WIC (Women Infant Children) let parents buy formula, it's so expensive that not much money is left overfor other food. Click here to see what food WIC pays for.
Contact your local pantry or soup kitchen to see what they're currently accepting.
The Staten Island Hunger Task Force cannot accept money but our members can.
Join the Staten Island Giving Circle, which now has an Adopt a Pantry program.
Other emergency food providers accept cash or checks. Please call to find out how to make out your check. If a pantry is associated with a church, for example, you may need to make the check out to the church, putting the pantry's name on the memo line.