10 Most Needed Items for a Food Pantry

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Food pantries often rely on volunteers to help stock shelves.

According to FeedingAmerica.org, in 2009, 5.6 million households in America went to a food pantry for emergency food at least once. Because food pantries, also called food banks, are non-profit organizations, they rely on the generosity of others to help provide food for the needy. When most food banks are running low on supplies, they appeal to the public for donations, and usually there are certain foods that are more needed than others.


Canned Meat or Fish

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Tuna and other canned meat, such as chicken, stew, chili, salmon or corned beef, are always in need at food pantries.

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Soup is easy to store and keep on pantry shelves. Many soups provide nutritional value; and though often a meal supplement, there are many times when soup might be an entire meal for someone.

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Although some food pantries accept fresh vegetables and fruits, canned types are preferred because there is no worry of spoilage while on pantry shelves or during transportation. Most pantries have canned beans, in particular, on their list of needed items.


Peanut Butter

High in protein, peanut butter figures prominently on the list of most needed food items in pantries across the country.


Pasta or boxed pasta dinners, such as macaroni and cheese, make good donation items because, in most cases, a little goes a long way. Pasta is also a food that people can prepare along with vegetables, meat or just on its own.


Milk Products

Needed milk items include powdered milk, boxed puddings and cheese spreads. Some food pantries may accept fresh dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese and milk.

Grain Products

Types of grain products to consider include brown rice, whole grain bread, bagels or muffins.



Boxed cereal is expensive for low-income families to purchase. In addition to having a long shelf life, which makes for excellent pantry storage, many cereals are fortified with vitamins and include healthy grains. Oatmeal is also in demand, whether instant or regular.


Baby Food

Infant formula and baby food are expensive for those in need. Canned formula and boxed baby cereal are easy to store and in great demand. Some pantries might not accept baby food in glass jars, however.

Non-food Items

Many pantries also supply toiletries, including deodorant, soap, shampoo, toilet tissue, toothpaste and toothbrushes, shaving soap and feminine hygiene products. Other non-food items needed are cleaning supplies and diapers.