Hunger is America’s “silent crisis.” About 49 million Americans are food insecure and may not know where their next meal is coming from. On May 14, you and I have the opportunity to help the food insecure in our own backyards by simply taking some food out of our home pantries and donating it to local food pantries. We don’t even have to leave our homes to do it. During the United States Postal Service's annual Stamp Out Hunger drive, our mail carriers will take our donations when they deliver the mail.

Here are a few tips.

  • Use a plastic handled bag if you can. It will make it easier for the letter carrier to grab and carry. Some carriers put bags in our mailbox a day or two before, but any plastic handled bag will work.
  • Do not donate food past its expiration date. By now, you know my stance of expiration dates – they’re arbitrary and can often be ignored on non-perishables. However, the local food bank that my boys and I have volunteered at in the past have had us throw out any food past its expiration date. I don’t know if all food banks do this, but keep those foods past the dates stamped on them for your own use to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.
  • Do not donate food in glass containers because the glass could break, injure the mail carrier, or damage other foods.
  • Food pantries are always in need of proteins. Dried or canned beans, tuna or chicken in cans, peanut butter, and other nut butters are examples of non-perishable proteins.
  • Food banks also accept hygiene products – toothbrushes and toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, soap and other toiletries can’t be bought with food stamps so the food insecure really need these items.
So go to your pantry and perhaps your bathroom closet. Pull out as much as you’re able to part with and leave it out for your mail carrier this Saturday.

And, if you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “I can’t donate. I am one of the food insecure,” please visit Feeding America’s Need Help page to find a food bank in your area, information on public assistance and other useful information.

Editor's note: This story was originally published in May 2014 and has been updated with new information.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.