Here’s a term that I didn’t know until about a year ago – food insecurity. The definition of food insecurity seems to be debated, but most people consider a person food insecure if he is forced to go without meals because of lack of available food or he has to survive without adequate nutrition.

Back in November the USDA released a report with its 2008 statistics on food insecurity. It reported that 36.2 million Americans, including 12.4 million children, are food insecure. The thing is, those 2008 statistics are based on their 2007 data, before our current economic crisis reared its ugly head. There can be no doubt that today, on Jan. 19, 2009, those statistics are greater.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and a day that President-elect Obama has called for a National Day of Service. The boys are off from school today, so I’ll be taking them to a food pantry at a church in town to help clean it out, check for expiration dates, and organize the pantry. The project was initiated by the junior high student council, and they invited the elementary school students to join them. How cool is that?

If you are unable to participate in a service project today because you don’t have the day off from work, why not stop by you local grocery store tonight and pick up some non-perishable food to donate to a local food pantry? If you can’t get it there today, that’s okay; get it there as soon as you can. If you are unsure where a local pantry is, you can locate a food pantry at

Don’t know what to buy? Here’s a list taken from The Greater Lansing Food Bank’s website, that covers what most food banks would need.

Suggested Items for Food Drives

Most Needed

·       Beans, Canned: kidney, navy, pinto, pork & beans, refried
·       Fish, Canned: salmon, tuna
·       Fruit Juice, 100% (canned and boxed)
·       Fruits, Canned
·       Meals, Boxed: Complete dinners, Helper & Pasta meals
·       Meats, Canned: beef stew, chili, hash, spam
·       Oil, Vegetable (bottled)
·       Pasta: macaroni, noodles (including ramen), spaghetti
·       Peanut Butter
·       Rice: instant and dinners
·       Potatoes, Instant
·       Soup (canned and boxed)
·       Snack Items: fruit snacks, granola bars, pop tarts
·       Tomato Products: canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste

Other Food Items

·       Baby Food and Baby Formula: Enfamil and Prosobee brands
·       Beverages: hot chocolate, coffee, tea
·       Cereals (hot and cold)
·       Jello
·       Muffin and Pancake Mixes
·       Pasta, Canned: Beefaroni, ravioli, SpaghettiOs
·       Pudding, Instant
·       Snack Items: cookies (store-bought not home-made), crackers
·       Staples: flour, spices (basic), sugar
·       Stuffing
·       Syrup
·       Vegetables, Canned

Personal Care Items

·       Combs
·       Deodorant
·       Hygiene Products, Feminine
·       Razors, Disposable
·       Shampoo
·       Soap Bars and Body Wash
·       Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
·       Toilet Paper

Unacceptable Items

·       Home-Canned or Home-Made Goods
·       Opened or Damaged Items
·       Fresh or Perishable Items

And if you haven't seen all the interesting angles MNN is taking on the Obama inauguration, check out this page. 

Image: Mr. Kris 

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

Fight food insecurity as a service project
Gotta work instead of serve today? Here's a way to do both.