Lent is a time for remembering the needs of others, says the Rev. Tom Bonderenko, administrator of shelter services for Associated Catholic Charities which sends out "Lenten lists" of desperately needed foods and other goods to interested churches, civic groups or individuals.
Many churches of all faiths ask their parishioners to contribute canned foods and other goods to give to the poor. Father Bonderenko says all contributions are welcome but some are more useful than others.
Here is a list of the top 10 most needed items:
* Canned meats, such as tuna.
* Canned vegetables, especiallygreen vegetables.
* Canned ravioli or spaghetti.
* Peanut butter and jelly.
* Hot sauce, such as Tabasco sauce. Hot sauces are frequently requested because it makes food taste better to people with alcohol- or drug-abuse problems. "Some foods can leave a very bad taste in the mouth and some people have to highly season their foods in order to eat anything," he says.
* Boxed cereals, without nuts. Nuts are hard to digest for people with bad teeth or stomach problems. These are common problems for homeless people, he says.
* Desserts such as securely packaged cookies, canned pudding or canned fruit.
* Packaged dried fruit.
* Instant products, such as boxed macaroni and cheese, which require only hot water.
* Individual-size packages of boxed juices.
Besides its Soup Kitchen, Associated Catholic Charities runs a food pantry for poor people. One of its programs is a food club -- $2 can buy $30 worth of groceries, or about 10 days worth of food.
About 85 churches and civic organizations contribute to the program. Boxes of food are taken in and sorted. Damaged food, for example bent cans, is discarded. Father Bonderenko says people in poor health are at a high risk for food poisoning.
Canned goods are most often requested because they are easily stored and easy to prepare. A poor family might have a hot plate or range top but probably don't have an oven. Also, many families might have only one pot to cook with.
Don't donate cake mixes or other products that require special pans or additional ingredients. Father Bonderenko says few of his customers have the resources to bake a cake.
And, no more cans of soup! Pantry shelves are overflowing, he says.