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The 8 Best Foods for Homeless People

The best foods for homeless people are those that are filling, nourishing, with a long shelf life. Canned goods are a good idea because they last longer and contain meat, fruit, and vegetables. You can also give dehydrated foods, granola, nuts, and seeds for energy and other health benefits.

A balanced diet is essential for the homeless population, especially since those that have fallen into hard times may need help getting the food and water they need. You must also account for factors such as shelf life, ease of storage and transport, and the recipient’s personal preferences. This article will explore several of the best foods to give homeless people.

A homeless man and a man in a suit eating together on a curb

1. Canned Goods

Canned goods are some of the best foods for homeless people because they can last for years when stored and can be bought in bulk. If you’re giving canned goods to the homeless, give them stews, soups, meats, vegetables, fruits, and milk.

In case you’re wondering how many cans of a certain food you should give per day, here’s a quick guide on various food ingredients and how much of them a person should get for a balanced diet. 

  • Protein: The body needs 5 ½ oz (156 g) of protein per day. It’s available in canned goods such as seafood, vegetables, meats, dairy, seeds, peas, beans, lentils, and soups.
  • Fats & oils: The body should be provided with at least three tablespoons (45 ml) of fats and oils per day.
  • Fruits: Fruits contain fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants. At least two servings of fruit should be consumed per day.
  • Vegetables: Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, and carbs that boost energy and health. The body needs at least 2 ½ servings of vegetables a day.
  • Whole grains: Whole grains are a source of good carbs, which help produce energy for the body. Whole grains also provide the body with an abundance of essential minerals. At least six servings of grains should be consumed per day.
  • Dairy: Aside from being a source of calcium, dairy products also include other nutrients like fats and minerals. The body should be provided with three servings of dairy per day.

The nutrition in canned goods is similar to that of fresh or frozen goods, according to an article from the University of California. So, this gives you a chance to help the homeless stay healthy by providing the foods their bodies need. 

However, it’s important to mix up canned goods with other types of foods. Since canned goods are often filled with preservatives, they should be consumed in moderation. You should also check the ingredient labels in case they’re packed with an excess amount of sodium, fats, and other unhealthy ingredients.

If you are looking to give back and help your community, here is an article that I wrote that you may want to check out: 9 Ways to Serve Your Country Without Being in the Military.

2. Dehydrated Food

Dehydrated foods are among the best foods for homeless people due to their long shelf life. When packaged properly, they can last over a year and provide the nutrition the body needs. These foods include meats (jerky), fruits, and vegetables. 

Dehydrated Meats (Jerky)

Since jerky is high in protein and low in carbs and fat, eating them makes you feel fuller for longer. Also, protein is the building block of all cells in the body, and it’s especially vital for the immune system. Having a sturdy immune system is important for homeless people since they’re often exposed to the elements and other unfavorable conditions.

Dehydrated meats can be from:

  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Pork
  • Venison

I wrote an article about beef jerky as a survival food, you may want to read it here: Is Beef Jerky a Good Survival Food? How Should It Be Stored?

Dehydrated Vegetables

Here are examples of nutrient-packed vegetables that can be dehydrated:

  • Onions
  • Greens
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Broccoli

Note that vegetables that are high in fat, such as avocado, won’t dehydrate well. 

Dehydrated Fruits

Fruits are an excellent source of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Examples of fruits that can be dehydrated are: 

A pile of deyhydrated fruits
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus
  • Apples
  • Plums

3. Granola

Granola is a great food for the homeless because it includes minerals, carbs, and vitamins the body needs. It is high in fiber and contains complex carbohydrates that provide sustained energy. Properly packaged granola can last longer than a year.

Granola contains a mixture of oats, nuts, and fruits. It’s typically held together by peanut butter and provides an excellent source of protein or honey. Granola will give the homeless the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy and energized throughout the day. 

One tried-and-tested brand of granola is the Quaker Simply Granola Honey & Almond, Twin Pack (available on Amazon.com). For a relatively low price, you can get two 24.1 oz (approx. 0.7 kg) packs, which should last for at least a few days. 

4. Peanut Butter and Nut Butter

Peanut butter and nut butter are also good for homeless people because they are high in calories, have plenty of protein, and are very filling. In addition, they are packed with minerals, fats, and vitamins. They are also easy for homeless people to store and carry around.

You can also use peanut butter or nut butter with granola to create homemade energy bars or balls. These are an excellent choice for someone that may need a quick nutrition and energy boost to tide them over until the next meal. 

You can easily make these by following a recipe such as this one from YouTube:

However, keep in mind that peanut allergy is relatively common. Before you give peanut butter (or anything that contains peanuts) to anyone, make sure to ask them first if they have a history of allergic reactions to the food. 

5. Crackers

Crackers are one of the best foods for homeless people because they are lightweight, easy to carry, and a good source of carbohydrates and protein. Crackers can be eaten on the go, and they have a long shelf life. 

You can use crackers to make simple meals like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or tuna salad sandwiches. This makes them an excellent option for homeless people who don’t have access to cooking facilities or refrigeration. 

Plus, crackers are inexpensive compared to other food items, making them a good option for those living in poverty. 

If you don’t want your recipient to get bored with the usual crackers, you can get them some Keebler Sandwich Crackers (45 Packs) (available on Amazon.com). The packs come in a variety of flavors that the homeless person can choose from — and they can be shared with others to boot.

6. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are excellent snacks for homeless people. They can provide protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Because of their size and shelf life, they are easy to store and carry on the go.

Specifically, nuts and seeds provide:

  • Fiber
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

Some types of nuts and seeds ideal for homeless people are: 

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds

Even just a handful of nuts or seeds can provide enough energy to sustain a person until their next meal. 

Again, you should be careful that your intended recipient isn’t allergic to the food you’ll give them. You can also ask them what they want if you’re not sure. 

7. Trail Mix

Trail mix is an excellent snack for homeless people because it contains nuts, seeds, and fruits, which are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Trail mix can also last over a year and can be stored for a relatively long time.

Compared to the other items on the list, trail mix is relatively expensive. However, this snack is easy to make and distribute to homeless people. 

Here’s a popular Youtube video that includes four delicious trail mix recipes: 

8. Fruit Bars

Fruit bars are packed with vitamins that support a healthy immune system, making them excellent for homeless people. They contain natural sugar and a lot of fiber, protein, and potassium. They also have a high water content, which helps homeless people stay hydrated. 

Fruit bars also contain little sodium and no cholesterol. They also have no saturated fat or trans fat, which have been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. 

Fruit bars are very filling because of their fiber content. They give the body energy thanks to their abundance of carbohydrates and vitamins such as B-6, C, and E. They also have the following minerals that help build strong bones and teeth: 

  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

There are a variety of fruit bar recipes with different flavor combinations. For example, here’s a viral YouTube video on an easy chocolate, fruit, and nut energy bar recipe: 

Foods You Should Not Give Homeless People

Now that you know what foods to give homeless people, what are the foods you shouldn’t give homeless people?

Here are some of the no-nos:

  • Perishable food: Homeless people usually store their food for as long as possible. If the food you give them will rot in a week or so, it’ll be a waste to throw them away.
  • Expensive food: It may be impractical for you to give the homeless expensive food on a regular basis. On the other hand, “expensive” is relative: If you can give them hundreds of dollars worth of meals every day, then by all means!

For more, don’t miss 9 Ways to Serve Your Country Without Being in the Military.

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