All posts by ClancyAdm1n

11 Surprising Things to Know When Donating to a Food Pantry

11 Surprising Things to Know When Donating to a Food PantryHolidays spark the spirit of giving and with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas around the corner; food donations are in full swing to help fight hunger. Schools are sending flyers home and local grocery stores are hosting food drives. Unfortunately, hunger is silently sweeping our nation with 42 million people struggling to find their next meal and there are ways you can help that cost nothing.

Can I share a little secret with you?

I work at a food pantry. I see donations from well-intentioned people daily. Unfortunately, about 25% of our donations are tossed leaving volunteers aggravated and frustrated. In my six years, I have witnessed jaw-dropping donations such as a can of 1993 expired carrots, opened and used spices, cigarettes, beer and even worse- a garbage bag full of boxed pasta covered in dried animal urine. While the examples are extreme, they are reality. The Al Beech West Side Food Pantry filled a dumpster to the rim with 2000 lbs of expired and damaged food after a Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

Food drives are not a time to clean out cabinets. Food pantries cannot accept damaged or expired food and have limited means for disposal. A good rule to follow- donate food you would eat or feed your child.

11 Surprising Things to Know When Donating to a Food Pantry

In the wake of natural disasters across the United States coupled with the fast approaching holiday season, many people are looking for ways to give back. If you want to donate, I put together a list of ideas and most of them do not cost a dime.

1| Ask First

Contact your local food pantry and find out what they need before you donate food. Food needs change daily and are based on past donations or what is available at the local food bank.

2| Organize a #GiveHealthy Food Drive

People facing hunger are at a higher risk for diet-related disease, such as obesity, type-2 diabetes and heart disease. Individuals with chronic disease need access to nutritious foods. #GiveHealthy enables people to donate fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy food by making it easy and fun. Plan your next food drive using the #GiveHealthy organization.

3| Pull Tab Canned Items

Most likely a child might not know how to use a can opener or even worse- the family may not have a can opener. When possible, always donate low-sodium and no sugar added canned vegetables, fruit, meat, soup, pasta and beans with a pull-tab.

4| Money is Better than Food

Instead of buying groceries for the food pantry, consider giving cash. Depending on the partnerships of the of the food pantry, a food pantry can buy more food for the value of a dollar because they usually pay wholesale prices.

5| Consider Toiletries

Many families make the decision between essential toiletries and food to feed their children. Consider donating feminine hygiene products, diapers, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes and toilet paper.

6| Donate your unique passion

Reach out to your local food bank and pantry to donate your time but more specifically, your passion. While it is great to have people available to pack food bags for client pick up, it is even better to have people with passion. Here are examples of the passionate donations to the Al Beech West Side Food pantry:

  • Elementary students practicing their instruments during client pick up. We have experienced the sounds from flutes, guitars to a Baby Grand Piano while clients picked up their orders!
  • A college student brought her gift of photography to help with social media promotion of our FREE bi-weekly farmer’s market.
  • A senior gentleman built us new shelves to ensure safety of our volunteers.

7| Organize a food sorting play date at the food pantry

Call your local food pantry to determine when the next food donation is being delivered. Let the food pantry know you want to organize a volunteer day for kids. Older kids can inspect the food for expired product and damaged goods. Younger kids can organize the food by product and the parents can carry heavy items to storage.

8| Plastic Grocery Bags

Plastic grocery bags are FREE when shopping. Help us reuse the plastic bags when packing up our client’s food by donating the bags.

9| Donate garden surplus

Even if you have one cucumber drop it off! If everyone gave a cucumber or a garden surplus, there would be more than enough to go around. Remember- very piece of produce counts in the fight against hunger!

10| Unused Hotel Toiletries

Going on a business trip? Save your unused toiletries and drop them off at your local food pantry.

11| Get Social

Use your social media influence to let your friends know the local food bank is taking donations. Call your local food pantry and blast out their unique needs. Make sure to include a day, time and place for drop off.

Clancy Cash Harrison MS, RDN, FAND is a Registered Dietitian, Author of Feeding Baby, TEDx Speaker, and Food Justice Advocate challenging the way poverty is approached in the United States. She speaks to thousands of healthcare professionals, non-profits, and universities every year about food dignity and food access. You can find more information at and follow her on Facebook: Clancy Harrison & Twitter: ClancyCHarrison

5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas

As a working mom, my life is crazy- like most parents. During the last 7 years, I worked full-time and learned a lot about packing lunches and cooking dinner on tight schedules and budgets. The tips and ideas keep the busy parent {you} in mind.

5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas

5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas & Tips

1| Pack foods your child will eat, NOT  what you want them to eat.

Students have anywhere from 15-30 minutes to eat lunch. To ensure your child gets the nourishment they need it is important you keep lunch fun, enticing and exciting. This can be done by:

  • Pairing favorite foods with “learning to like” foods.
  • Breakfast for lunch is a hit for many children. 
  • Use cookie cutters: they can add new shapes to sandwiches, fruit and veggies.
  • Explore variety with in the same food category. If your child does not like coined carrots, try serving them diced, speared or mashed.
  • Get creative and name your menu items with silly but fun names that will appeal to the child. Even better- let them help name the food. 
  • Get your kids involved- menu planning, shopping, and preparing the food. Kids of all ages can help in the kitchen when given an age appropriate task.

2| Get creative with leftovers! 

Leftovers are a perfect lunch box trick for busy parents.  Creating lunches from your leftovers not only minimizes stress but makes dinnertime clean up easier!

Roasted Chicken Ideas:

  • Taco Chicken Lettuce Cup: shred chicken and coat with taco seasoning. Mix with frozen corn, frozen black beans, diced tomato and scallions. Serve in a lettuce cup or tortilla.
  • BBQ Chicken Sandwich: shred chicken or dice chicken and toss in BBQ sauce. Serve on favorite pita, wrap, or bread with cheddar cheese, red onion slices, and avocado.
  • Caesar Chicken Wrap: shred chicken and toss in Caesar dressing. Wrap up in favorite flour tortilla with croutons, shredded Parmesan cheese, and tomatoes.

Hamburger Ideas:

  • Hamburglar Salad: chop up left over hamburger. Add hamburger, shredded cheese, tomatoes and croutons to a lettuce cup or bed of lettuce. Spice it up with your child’s favorite taco seasoning.
  • Taco Wrap: chop up left over hamburger and coat with taco seasoning. Mix with frozen corn, frozen black beans, tomatoes, avocado and scallions. Serve in favorite tortilla.
  • Combine warm leftover hamburger meat & homemade macaroni and cheese to a thermos in the morning for a hot school lunch. Using a thermos significantly increases the variety of foods that can be taken into school.

Pasta Ideas:

  • Leftover pasta is a perfect salad base.Use your child’s favorite dressings and veggies to make a masterpiece they are sure to eat.
  • Salad on a Stick: Add a rotating mixture of cheese, favorite veggies, basil leaves and pasta on a lollipop stick

5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas

3| Think of a Salad Differently

A salad does not have to be a traditional salad full of lettuce greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons, and dressing. A salad can be anything mixed together- grains, fruit, meat, veggies! Rethink your definition of a salad the next time you ask your child to eat a a bowl of leafy greens. Go for a frozen fruit salad. Not only will it keep the lunch cool but the child will love it. Our favorite frozen fruits are pineapple, mango, and peaches.

5| Keep cool!

Think of all the food we store in the refrigerator. Those are the foods that can spoil between the time your child leaves the house and actually eat the food. Keep the food cool with these tips:

  • Pack frozen fruit salads. My favorite frozen fruit that defrost with a great quality include mango, peaches, and pineapple. 
  • Use an ice pack with each lunch.
  • Freeze the drink the night before and it will be mostly defrosted and cold by lunch.
  • Add frozen yogurt tubes but avoid the yogurt with food colorings and added sugar.

Learn more about Clancy and her mission:

18-Day Food Drought Exacerbates Childhood Hunger

18-Day Food Drought Exacerbates Childhood Hunger

18-Day Food Drought Exacerbates Childhood Hunger

Childhood hunger does not take a summer vacation and becomes much worse for 13.1 million children struggling to find their next meal in the United States. In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and many cities across the country, children who normally receive a free or reduced lunch during the school year will experience an 18-day food draught which exacerbates childhood hunger in June.

What would you do for 18 days if you were child without food?

The 18-day food draught is the result of a gap between the end of the School Nutrition Programs (National School Lunch & Breakfast Programs) and the start of the Summer Feeding Program. To compound the problem, food donations are also at an all-time low for food pantries during the summer months.

Hunger occurs 365 days out of the year and is not limited to the holidays.

Unfortunately, only 1 in 6 children who participate in school nutrition programs utilize the summer feeding program for a variety of reasons. The biggest barrier to summer meals is that there are 2 school meal programs for every summer meal program. In addition, many summer programs close or open later in the summer because they have limited staff. Other barriers include transportation and lack of knowledge of programs.

4 Tips to improve access to summer nutrition programs and fight childhood hunger:

1| Know the Location of a Local Summer Meal Program

All children who are 18 years and under can received a free lunch at a Summer Meals Program. To find a site near you, visit Summer Food Rocks.

2| Find Your Local Food Pantry

The absence of free and reduced school lunches in the summer can increase grocery bills by a couple hundred dollars a month. To help manage your food budget, find a local food pantry by visiting Feeding America.

3| Donate Food All Year Long (especially during the summer)

The best food to donate to a local food pantry include canned vegetables, peanut butter, canned meats, pasta, pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese, beans, and rice. Toiletries are great bonus items and include: feminine hygiene products, diapers, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, tooth paste, deodorant, toilet paper and laundry detergent. To learn how to donate healthier food options, visit Give Healthy.

4| Know other Food Resources

There are many local grass-root efforts to fight childhood hunger.  For example, Dinner for Kids  is an organization that delivers hot meals to children in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. You can also reach out to neighboring churches, even if you are not a member and ask for help.

While food insecurity impacts everyone’s health negatively, it is particularly crushing to children. Nourishing foods are critical to a child’s mental, emotional, and physical development.

If we are serious about ending childhood hunger in the United States and improving the health of our next generation, we must dismantle the barriers and stigma associated with food assistance programs. We must shift the way we individually and collectively think and talk about hunger in the United States.

Feeding Baby Giveaway with $600 in Prizes and 9 Winners!

What if you could feed your baby with absolute confidence, knowing you were setting the foundation for nourishing eating habits and supporting your child to have a healthy relations with food?

Feeding Baby Giveaway with $600 in Prizes and 9 Winners! Welcome to Feeding Baby Giveaway with $600 in Prizes and 9 Winners!

As a conscientious parent, you want your baby to get the nutrition she needs – not only to grow and develop physically, but to be the best she can be.  You’d love nothing more than for your baby to enjoy eating, without fighting, without pressure, and without you stressing out if the food you’re giving your baby contains optimal nutrients for growth and development. Feed Your Baby, Keep Your Sanity {grand prize of the giveaway} is an interactive, self-paced online program that will help you feed in a way that feels natural, simple, and structured. The Feed Your Baby Giveaway is brought to you by Kiddo Feedo, Jill Castle MS, RDN, & Clancy Harrison to give you everything you need to nourish your infant. There are 9 winners with $600 in total prize value.

Feed Your Baby Giveaway Individual Prizes include:

a Rafflecopter giveaway Feed Your Baby, Keep Your Sanity is designed to help you implement a feeding philosophy so you can raise a healthy adventurous eater. You’ll discover what to do, how to do it, and why.  The giveaway starts on May 16, 2017 at 12:00 AM EST and ends on June 6, 2017 at 12:00 AM.

Hunger is 365 Days a Year (not just holidays!)

Hunger is 365 Days a Year (not just holidays!)

Hunger is 365 Days a Year (not just holidays!)

Hunger exists 365 days a year not just during the holiday season. Food donations slow down to dribbles in the spring and then a drought during the summer months. The highest need for food donations occur during the summer months because of the large participation gap between the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Feeding Program.

During the school year, 22 million children rely on the National School Lunch Program for a steady and predictable lunch. In the summer, this daily meal disappears for approximately 82% of those children due to transportation, location of summer feeding programs, unsafe areas, and weather.  Parents are forced to stretch their tight budgets and rely on food pantries. Let’s work together to end hunger all year long.

5 ways you can donate to end hunger today:

1| Donate your passion!

What are you passionate about? Everyone has something unique to offer the world. People come to our food pantry to sort, pack, or distribute food. The Al Beech West Side Food Pantry empowers volunteers to lead with their passion to fight hunger with dignity. When people lead with their passion, dignity is cultivated.

  • Student allowed to practice instruments during client pick up.
  • Photography of our free farmer’s market to help bring awareness to our program and mission.
  • A senior gentleman built new shelves to ensure safety of our volunteers.
  • A retired senior and Master Gardener donated time to teach children how to run our small food pantry garden.
  • A college student helped edit articles for the promotion of the food pantry.

2| Don’t Let Garden Surplus Rot

Consider dropping off your garden surplus. One cucumber can change the world. If everyone dropped off one piece of produce, we would be able to feed many people.

3| Know the Right Foods

Food pantries appreciate nourishing non-perishable canned foods such as tuna, chicken, beef, salmon, peanut butter, beans, fruits, and vegetables that contain no added salt or sugar. It is always best to buy canned items with a pull-tab to open with ease. Plastic containers are preferred over glass. Toiletries most appreciated by clients include: tooth brushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, feminine hygiene, and diapers.

4| FREE Plastic Grocery Bags

Plastic grocery bags are free and needed to pack up the food for the clients receiving the food donations.

5| Spend Time in Parks

Summer Feeding Programs need volunteers. Reach out to you local food bank to find a Summer Feeding Program near you. Without volunteers to distribute the lunch, the programs cannot run and many children rely on this meal.

Hunger is real for 1 in 6 children in the United States. Together we can change the world and be the voice many children need.