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It’s not always easy to deal with a financial crisis, and when it comes to putting food on the table for yourself and your family, it can be challenging to find help. You’re not alone – more people than ever have been looking for ways to feed themselves and their families and seeking assistance from charities and food banks. We’ve put together a list of various free food resources you can look to for assistance in your daily food requirements.
- Check your eligibility for Federal Food Assistance Programs.
- Contact your child’s school to see if they participate in free meal programs.
- Some religious groups offer free food on certain days or times.
- Download the apps from fast-food chains to keep up with free food offers.
- Use food-sharing and waste-prevention apps such as Olio or Too Good To Go.
- Look for restaurants offering free kids’ meals when an adult eats.
- Check the legality of foraging and dumpster diving in your area.
- Plant a small food garden to help supplement your groceries.
- Use coupons to help you save on your regular food items on your grocery list.
- Don’t try to scam businesses out of free food.
How To Get Free Food Resources Near Me?
While dedicated organizations aim to ensure that everyone gets fed, there are also several slightly more unusual and unorthodox methods of getting free food. Ensure your route will not get you into legal trouble, and be wary of scams. Do not try to steal from businesses by faking lost food orders and other questionable tactics, as this is illegal.
If you need help with a lack of funds while looking for work, look for assistance from the government agencies designed to alleviate some of the trauma of poverty – whether short or long-term. I used a few options while looking for free food resources near me.
SNAP, which is short for The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the federal assistance benefits program that assists eligible families and individuals in need. It used to be known as food stamps, but the system now uses an Electronic Benefits Transfer Card. Different states have different benefits calculations; in some cases, individual payments can be meager, while in others, it’s far more reasonable. Check your state services to find out more.
Using this card in authorized food shops, you can buy food from a selection of eligible foods. SNAP determines your suitability for their program by checking your bank balance and ensuring you live in the correct state. Households where one of the household members is elderly (60+ years) or disabled will qualify for more benefits. You can check your eligibility here or find your local SNAP offices for more information.
2. Local Food Bank
The first stop if you’ve never dealt with food shortage before is to go and see what your local food bank can do to help you. Food bank programs are not just for first-time users; those returning for assistance are always welcome. Some food banks are run as federal programs, while others are local charities set up by religious or welfare organizations.
Feeding America is a network of non-profit food banks – ranging from small charities to more extensive assistance programs. They have a map locating local food banks, which is an excellent place to start to see if there are any food banks or pantries near you. You can also do a web search to find local foodbank initiatives such as the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
3. School Year Meal Programs
During the school year, there are options to get your children on a free school meal package. Some programs also help feed kids during the school break and provide afterschool meals. While states will vary, the programs to look for will be the School Breakfast and the School Lunch programs. They are designed to provide nutritional meals and snacks for school-age children.
You will need to contact your child’s school to see if they are part of the programs. If they are, you will need to meet specific eligibility requirements. You will likely qualify if you are on a low income, already on the SNAP program, if your family is a migrant or foster family, or if you are homeless.
4. Summer Food Service Programs
While getting your kids free school meals is an excellent help, you might wonder how you’ll cope when your children are on summer break. Luckily, there are assistance programs for kids up to eighteen, providing meal assistance during school break. Some even offer free activities to help keep kids occupied.
Summer Programs can be harder to find as local communities generally run them, but you can find programs near you via text, app, and your local food bank.
With the help of No Kid Hungry, you can text FOOD to 304-304 to find a list of free meal sites near you. Other options are to call the USDA hotline number 1-866-348-6479 for more information or to check your local food pantry to see if they know of summer programs in the area.
5. Sikh Temples
Known as Gurdwara, Sikh temples offer free food to anyone who visits, which could be on a daily or weekly basis, depending on their services. Sikh food is North Indian style and vegetarian to include all faiths and is prepared by volunteers who do all the cooking and cleaning. The food service is known as Langar and welcomes anyone.
Remember that this is a religious service, and you should remove your shoes at the entrance of the Langar hall and cover your head. If you don’t have a head covering, Gurdwara will provide you with a piece of cloth for this purpose. If you can leave a donation, this will go towards feeding more people. Find your local Gurdwara and ask them about service times.
6. Campus Food Pantries
If you are a studying at a university or college, there may be an on-campus food pantry available. More than 570 registered campus food pantries are in the states, and that number has been growing.
College students often struggle to get enough to eat, and the campus food pantries are designed to help alleviate the stress of food insecurity while studying. They are usually run by volunteers and rely on donations to stock the food. If you are currently at college, check if your campus runs a free food pantry. You can find more details about the College and University Food Bank Alliance at Swipe Out Hunger.
7. Local and Chain Restaurants
Some local restaurants have policies to give free meals to anyone who needs them. Naturally, because these are generally small, non-franchise places, it isn’t easy to put together a list that will be useful and up-to-date. Still, if you have local restaurants, it’s worth keeping an eye on any offers or rewards programs they may list.
Fast food chains sometimes run freebies as a promotion, and many places offer free kids’ meals if an adult has a main meal. By searching for ‘kids eat free,’ you can find which local places are running free meal offers or download apps from the big fast-food chains such as KFC, Taco Bell, And Burger King to keep up to date with free food offers.
8. Free Food Samples
While you may come across free samples when grocery shopping in-store, some sites such as Sample Source offer free samples to members. The concept is that you tell the site about yourself, what kind of products you like, and your lifestyle, and they provide a list of available samples for you to choose from. Once they’ve been shipped to you, you sample and rate them.
You can only request samples once per seasonal offer period, and they don’t offer samples during winter, but this is one way to get a few freebies of all kinds, including food products. Fill in the registration form to become a member. We have a list of more sites here.
9. Free Food Share App Olio
Download the food-sharing app Olio to get connected to people offering excess unwanted food. Olio was developed to reduce food waste, as so many households throw away billions of dollars worth of delicious food each year.
Instead, the Olio app encourages people to list their excess free food for collection. Whether it’s individuals, or local vendors and shop owners, they will list free items. The downside to Olio is that there may not be enough people in your area using the app, but it’s worth checking out as it is free to download or use the web app.
10. Dumpster Diving
Dumpster Diving has become a popular way for people to get free food thrown out by grocers, bakeries, and supermarkets, but it does come with its own set of problems. Supermarkets often throw away delicious food because it doesn’t look good enough to sell – bruised fruit, for example – or because it is too near its best-by date.
There is a stigma around dumpster diving, and for many people, this keeps it from being a viable option. However, some legal angles should be considered if you’re willing to take this route. While removing items from garbage left in a public area is legal, dumpsters may sit on private property or be in an enclosed place, making it illegal. If you’re concerned, look through these guidelines.
Do Any Places Offer Free Food For Military?
On Veteran’s Day, many places offer free food for military service people. You will have to provide proof, such as Military ID, Discharge papers, Veteran organization membership Cards, and VA cards. A few places may accept wearing a military uniform as proof, but it’s better to have a backup in the form of an ID.
On the 11th of November, you can not only get a free meal if you are military, but some stores offer other Veteran’s Day discounts. Most of these offers will only be valid on Veteran’s Day, and offers will vary from state to state. Search the offers listed on Reader’s Digest for 2022 for upcoming discounts.
Is Foraging for Free Food Legal?
While you may have grand ideas of foraging for free fruit, nuts, and mushrooms, legally, foraging in the States is a tricky business. Firstly, you need to know what you can safely eat! This is very important, and you should never eat something you forage unless you are very confident of its identity. This is especially important when foraging for fungi.
You will also need to know which areas allow foraging. Many wilderness areas are protected, and it is illegal to forage on the land. Sadly, it’s often illegal to forage food from your local state parks and open spaces.
If you are sure that you would like to supplement your groceries with free foraged food, it’s worth investing in an urban foraging course so you know all the ins and outs of the process. You might want to consider planting fruit trees or vegetable gardens if you have the space.
How to Save Money on My Food Bill?
While you can find ways to get some free food, it will also help if you can cut down on your food bill by making some clever changes or substitutions. By implementing these changes, you can reduce your food bill by up to a third.
Buy pantry staples in bulk when on offer, and use these to build a meal when your budget is tight. Canned goods will last much longer than fresh, but always keep track of the expiry date.
By swapping fresh for frozen, you can also make a saving. If you have the freezer space, you can also chop and freeze fresh goods, avoiding the waste of throwing unused fresh food away. This is particularly helpful with fruit and veg.
Bulk up meals by replacing some meat protein with beans and other legumes like chickpeas, and save even more by choosing generic store brand goods instead of branded foods.
How to Save Money on Food with Coupons?
You can use coupons to cut your food grocery bills if you plan ahead. If you have a Sunday paper that offers coupons, start there and collect coupons and use these to plan your grocery shopping. Find more printable coupons online at sites such as Coupons.com. Double up on coupons to get extra savings.
You can sometimes use your saved coupons for on-special items to max your savings. It makes the most sense to use coupons on items you buy regularly, so clip those coupons and make a list of your most commonly bought items. Rather than use every coupon you have, streamline it so that you track the coupons to your regular grocery list.
Avoid shopping without a meal plan, and list worked out in advance, as you will often end up making snap buys that waste money and never buy something just because it’s on sale. If you don’t have it on your list, don’t buy it. Avoid brand loyalty and look for generic substitutes for your staples.