Part of my job is running a food pantry. I've learned a lot about what people need and what people want. Add your experience in the comments.
  1. Can openers.
    It never occurred to me that a person might not have a can opener until I had a man decline some food he really wanted because he had no way to open it. Dollar stores and Goodwill are great places to pick these up.
  2. Fruit cups.
    Fruit shouldn't be a luxury, but lots of times it is. Cups work better than cans of fruit because you don't have to figure out what to do with the leftovers.
  3. Beefaroni
    Canned pasta flies off my shelves. I cannot keep enough in stock. People will pop the top and eat it out of the can while they look at the shelves. I moved a microwave into the room where the pantry is so people can eat it while they're there. It's easier to eat than soup and is more filling.
  4. Shelf-stable milk
    Did you know you can buy milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated until you open it? I didn't. It's a god-send, though. If you bring a box of cereal, try to bring a carton of milk with it. Milk shouldn't be a luxury either, but it is.
  5. Food that goes together
    Don't bring kidney beans without a can of tomatoes and a packet of chili seasoning. Don't bring Tuna Helper without tuna. Don't bring pumpkin without pie crust mix.
  6. Drinks
    I have a regular guest who is diabetic and needs to drink orange juice. I had a woman practically do a happy dance at a can of Folgers. Tea bags, hot cocoa packets - all these things are especially coveted in the cold months.
  7. Things to eat right now
    Cracker packs, granola bars, peanut butter and crackers, hummus and chip kits, tuna salad kits... things you can eat immediately.
  8. Seasonings
    Garlic salt, seasoning salt, chili powder. Anything to dress up bland canned food.
  9. Your support
    Sometimes the people I see need someone to talk to as much as they need something to eat. A man I talked to today said it hurt when people walked by and said nothing to him, but it hurt even worse when people talked to him when they were alone but turned up their noses at him when they were with their friends. Listen without judgment or trying to fix everything. Just listen.