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12 Ways You Can Help Your Local Food Bank

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More than 40 million Americans live in households that are food insecure, which means that they don’t have the resources to regularly acquire nutritious, safe food. Food banks are almost always in need of nonperishable food items, but most people only turn their attention to feeding hungry people around holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Although it’s great to donate cans of soup and boxes of pasta to a food bank, there’s a lot more you can do to make a difference. Here are 12 ways you can help your local food bank.

1. VOLUNTEER.

Committing a few hours a month to volunteer at your local food bank can be a huge boon to an organization that’s probably understaffed and working with a limited budget. Food banks need volunteers to sort donations, stock shelves, prepare meals, serve food, and deliver care packages. Your local food bank may also need volunteers to do bookkeeping or online work, so be sure to inquire about their additional needs if you have any specialty skills that you think might be of service.

2. HOST A PANTRY DONATION PARTY.

Fall is a time for family parties and get-togethers with friends, so why not host a party with a theme that focuses on donating to the hungry? When you invite loved ones over to your house, tell them to bring a few nonperishable food items. Besides chatting and eating, your friends and family will be doing good for needy people. After the party, bring all the items you collected to your local food bank.

3. GIVE MONEY.

Because most food banks rely on donations to feed the hungry, giving money can be a huge help. Food banks buy food at wholesale, bulk, or other discounted rates, meaning that they can get a large amount of food for a small amount of money. Some food banks also have matching deals with food manufacturers, so the manufacturer donates money or food for certain purchases that the food bank makes. And when a food bank has a plethora of rice and beans but not enough fruit or vegetables, money you donate can help them fill in the gaps of whatever food they’re missing.

4. FIND OUT IF YOUR COMPANY PARTICIPATES IN A MATCHING GIFT PROGRAM.

Some large corporations have matching gift programs, in which they’ll match a donation you make to charity. If your employer offers such a program, fill out the paperwork and use your company's generosity to effectively double your donation. As the largest hunger relief organization in the U.S., Feeding America is a good place to think about making a donation (and using your company’s matching policy to help even more).

5. MAKE A HOLIDAY DONATION IN SOMEONE ELSE'S NAME.

Though tangible gifts for holidays and birthdays are often top of mind, consider eschewing physical items to instead make a monetary donation in someone else’s name. Feeding America offers an eCard you can send to people when you make a donation in their name. And if you recently lost a loved one, you can make a memorial donation to honor his or her memory and ask that others do the same.

6. DON'T DONATE ITEMS THAT YOUR FOOD BANK CAN’T USE.

Before donating any food to your local food bank, contact them to ask what they need. Most food banks won’t accept containers that have been opened, products that have expired, homemade dishes, or alcohol. In general, opt for metal cans and plastic containers over breakable glass jars, and try to give nutritious food that will last a long time, such as rice, beans, oatmeal, peanut butter, pasta, and canned veggies.

7. IF YOU'RE AN AVID GARDENER, SEE IF YOUR LOCAL FOOD BANK ACCEPTS FRESH PRODUCE.

Depending on the capacity and location of a food bank, it might have a need for fresh produce, such as carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. Ample Harvest encourages home gardeners to plant an extra row of veggies, with the intention of donating, and has resources to help find pantries in your area that would be able to accept your crop. 

8. THINK OUTSIDE THE KITCHEN.

Although a food bank's main focus is on feeding people, some food banks also accept cosmetics and hygiene products. Besides the obvious canned foods, you might be able to donate baby food, diapers, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste. If you're not sure about a certain item, call your local food bank ahead of time to see if they accept those items and have a need.

9. DON’T FORGET SPICES AND CONDIMENTS.

Most food banks get a ton of staple foods, but they’re often lacking in spices and condiments. Although salt and pepper aren’t essential, hungry people do use and greatly appreciate seasonings. Salt, pepper, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and Sriracha are versatile items that can improve the taste of many dishes.

10. CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSPERSON.

Call, email, or write a letter to your local and state representatives about the importance of food banks and the work they do to feed the hungry in your community. Before you contact your representative, educate yourself by reading about current legislation and how you can become a hunger relief advocate.

11. ARRANGE TO DONATE LEFTOVERS FROM YOUR PARTY.

Some venues have strict rules about what to do with leftover food from a catered party. If you’re hosting a holiday event with catered food, try to choose a venue that doesn’t throw out leftover food for health or liability reasons. And if your local food bank won't accept leftovers, ask if they can suggest another organization that will accept this type of food donation.

12. REMEMBER THAT PEOPLE ARE IN NEED YEAR-ROUND.

It’s great to help your local food bank around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but some food banks have a surplus of food in the fall and winter and a dearth in the summer months. Remember that people are in need of food all the time. If you want to donate food year-round, think about giving items on the first day of every month, or plan to evenly space out your donations throughout the calendar year.

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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