‘Tis the season to be generous! Of course, as Christians and as Americans, we should always be generous.  For some reason, though, the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas (and the onset of cold weather) make us especially thankful for what we have – and concerned for those who are struggling.

In this month’s Reader’s Digest, I ran across an article that gives some great ideas about how and what to give this season.  The following twelve tips are summarized from this article, originally written by Deb Martinson on xojane.com:

1. Do not give anything you would not want to eat. Odds are that no one else wants to eat it, either.

2. Don’t give stupid things. Some food is just too horrible to wish on anyone else; throw it out instead.

3. Consider giving food that can be eaten without cooking. Even living indoors, people have a hard time cooking if their landlord won’t fix the broken stove or the power company just shut off the electricity again. Think granola bars, cheese and cracker packages, spam, tuna, peanut butter, dry milk — anything you’d take on a long hike.

4. Don’t give perishable items. Also, leave food in the original packaging. If it needs to be portioned out, volunteers at the food bank will take care of it.

5. Think about people with special dietary needs. Clear labeling will help food bank workers get the right food to the right clients.

6. Make it easy to get at. Aseptic packaging and pouches are better than pull-top cans are better than traditional cans. Avoid glass jars, as they may break during processing.

7. Choose things that don’t require elaborate preparation. A boxed cake that says “just add water” is much better than one that wants milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and whatever else it can think of.

8. Keep it simple. Exotic foods are likely to be tossed and they take up space that could go to things people will actually eat.

9. Ask what’s needed. The volunteers at the food bank know what’s on the shelves and how far it will go. Your local food bank probably needs things you’d never think to give them. Ask.

10. Check your grocery store. Many work with local food pantries to assemble bags of food you can buy and donate for 5 or 10 bucks. It’s a really easy way to give.

11. Be nice. Try to include at least one item you’d choose as a treat for your kids. Someone else’s kids will love you.

12. Consider donating cash. Large organizations can get way better deals on food than you can; with ten dollars, Feeding America can provide 90 meals to hungry people. You can give them money here.

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