It's that time of year when food banks start looking at empty shelves since all of the holidays have passed. But it's just as important to give when everyone else isn't.

Food and toy drives seem to pop up at about every corner of your city and tons of non-perishables are donated to those in need. While this is always awesome to hear, have you ever noticed that most food banks have way more items than others - often limiting the choices for the very same people you are trying to help.

A popular Reddit.com thread did a survey about what kind of products food banks are usually low on (or have none of) and many people who either work or use these food banks had some great answers that you may have not thought about donating before. So when you shop for that canned good to donate this holiday season, remember: dozens of people probably brought that good, so why not spice it up a little bit.

This leads us to our first item:

Spices

The majority of volunteers recommended donating spices, which I think is a great idea. Spices, if done properly, can make nearly anything taste better and less bland. When all you're getting is canned meats and veggies, rice, bread, etc., some chili powder, seasoned salt, oregano or any other spice can make all the difference in a meal.

Carsten Koall, Getty Images

Chocolate

It's certainly not an essential. But think about it. If you were on the receiving end  of this situation, wouldn't it be nice to have brownie mix or a chocolate bar to share with your family during the holidays?

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Toiletries

While major grocery stores tend to donate their surplus or unsold perishable food items, toiletries don't exactly have a short shelf-life. Food stamps often do not cover these items as well, so donating soap, toilet paper, tooth paste, towels and more can go a long way.

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Socks

A former homeless person on the Reddit thread stressed the importance on clean, new socks. He wrote:

Socks mean the world to you. They keep you warm, make you feel like you have something new, and just comfort you.
Getty Images for GAP

Feminine Products

Another one that is often left out of the list. Many volunteers on Reddit confirm that there is always a need for tampons, pads and panty liners. Imagine being homeless and being unable to have these.

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Baby Formula

While it's a little more expensive than other items on this list, not all mothers can produce healthy milk for their infants. Especially if she has a tough time getting in her medical visits. There is a reason why most stores need to lock up baby formula due to theft.

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Soup Packets

When you have cans of rice, veggies, beans and occasionally meat, one thing comes to mind during cold winters. A hearty soup.

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Less Bread, More Meat

Whether it's jerky, canned meat or if the pantry you're donating to collects fresh meat, good and healthy protein is not as easy to come by than bread.

Koichi Kamoshida, Getty Images

Instant Coffee, Tea & Hot Cocoa

Every adult needs a pick-me-up every now and then. Instant coffee is non-perishable and easy to make. Hot chocolate come winter time is also an easy way to put a smile on a child's face.

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Cash

Above all else, food banks will always appreciate cash donations. This way, nothing goes to waste because the banks know exactly what they need.

Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

The most important thing to remember when you donate this year is that you should be donating items that you would buy for yourself or your family. The reject canned goods sitting in your pantry for a year will likely stay on the shelf where you donated as well.

 

You can find local food banks in East Texas in the link above.

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