Sack Lunches for the Homeless


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A tray of food, with Lunch and Kitchen

Do you ever find yourself wanting to do more to help those in need but not knowing where to start?  Or feeling overwhelmed by the immense need in your community?

I hate the empty feeling of seeing someone in need and looking the other way. Several years ago, I found a simple way of giving back where I’m able.

I keep sack lunches in my car to give away when I see homeless people around my city. It doesn’t take much effort to prepare them and my children like participating too. I usually prepare 10-12 bags at once and keep a few in a bin in my car at any given time.


A tray of food on a table, with Lunch and Bag

Giving away these lunch sacks has shown me that when I extend kindness to others I am blessed just by giving. My children get to see that they can help make a difference in someone else’s day and perhaps life.

I often wonder who has been blessed more by this simple kindness, my children and I, or the person who received the sack lunch.

Non-perishable foods keep well in the vehicle for an indefinite period of time. It isn’t about whether the food is organic, all natural or fresh from the garden. Sometimes it is as simple as a package of peanut butter crackers, some applesauce, and a bottle of water. Every little bit helps!

Here are some of the things I’ve packed into our bags:
Cracker packs, with cheese or peanut butter
Fruit or applesauce cups
Vienna sausages
Ready to eat tuna packs
Cereal bars
Soft snack bars (avoid nuts and crunchy granola bars)
Dessert snacks
Bottled water
Plastic fork and spoon

Lunch and Kitchen

Barefeet In The Kitchen has partnered with Feeding America for a Virtual Food Drive. (You can read more about why we chose Feeding America in the original blog post.)

Working together we provided 27,840 meals for the homeless and we are still working to provide more meals. You can help!

Click the link here to donate your spare change; every dollar donated will provide TEN meals for the hungry. If you’re inspired to pack a lunch or two, tuck it into your car and pass it along to the next hungry person you meet.

“What do YOU like to do to give back?”

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Sunshine2266 says

    This is a wonderful gesture. I donate to the local food bank every time I buy groceries. I never thought of this. Thanks for sharing. This is something I will (along with my Zumba buddies) do. We are blessed to be a blessing to others.

  2. Anonymous says

    this is such a wonderful idea, wish I would have thought of it, but you can bet I am going to be using it. We are blessed to be able to give to someone who is having a rough time. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anonymous says

    I love this idea and feel blessed to know people like you are out there willing to help. I'm thankful enough to live in an area where I don't see any homeless, but if I did, I would totally adopt this idea and hope it spreads like wildfire. 🙂 ~April

  4. Anonymous says

    You have such a good heart——I don't actually see many here accept when they are begging for money at a strip mall entrance and hard to stop—-they tell us not to give them money so they will go to the community shelter. But, I do.

  5. Lisa says

    I love this idea, Mary!! I think the children and I will pack up a few lunch bags and keep them in the van. Never know when and where they will be needed! Thanks!!

  6. Lisa Burnett Butzow says

    I have always felt awful just driving by people who are standing out on the road holding signs that ask for help. My daughter and I have talked about this a lot. I can't believe I have never thought of this!! Thanks for the idea. We will be making up these lunches and stowing them in the car.

  7. Mark W says

    I have worked with feeding the homeless in Austin for yrs… one lesson we learned is to avoid giving peanut butter sandwiches out due to the possibility of food allergies which for peanuts can be very serious. Instead we make salami or baloney on white bread with mustard… might sound ugh to most of us but that is what they like to eat.

  8. Unknown says

    This is a great idea. I feel a little slow in that I never thought of it before. Right now our church is collecting gently used outer wear. We are located at the intersection of two highways on a hill. Being so obvious, we get a lot of people who stop by and ask for help. When I looked in our closet, I found coats in great condition that the kids had outgrown and lots of extra gloves, hats and scarves. Again, it never occurred to me that someone would need my "useless old stuff". I have room in my closet and someone else will be warmer. A win/win!

  9. Juggling Real Food and Real Life says

    What a wonderful lesson to teach your children. My older sons worked with our local food pantry with since they were young Cub Scouts. My oldest is now in college and he still comes back to help with the Thanksgiving and Christmas distributions. In this era of self-entitlement, it is so important to teach our children to look beyond themselves and take care of those that need their help.

  10. Anonymous says

    Great job. I belong to a woman's group and we give to a different charity each month. Like your sack lunches very much.

  11. nannyrae2003 says

    This is a simple, almost anyone can do idea. I have donated by putting canned goods at my mailbox when the post office has a drive but I'd like to begin using your idea too.

  12. Jeanne Newman says

    I've been working with the homeless and hungry poor of New York City for 26 years. The bagged lunch is essential to those who don't know where their next meal will come from. We add hard-boiled eggs to the bag, as well, for added protein…another non-food idea which our friends on the street greatly appreciate is the toiletry kit: hotel-size samples of soaps, shampoos, towels cut into 12'x12" squares, combs, razors (all available in bulk at dollar stores or warehouse stores) packed into gallon-size zip-lock bags. Thanks very much for posting this.

  13. Rose says

    Great idea & thanks for sharing! Thanks also for the opportunity to "give" here via comment. Will also be following up with a direct contribution to Feeding America.

  14. Anna (Hidden Ponies) says

    Love this, and need to get these pre-made packs in my van! I usually come across people after grocery shopping and would have to go through my bags to find something convenient/nutritious, this is a MUCH better idea.

  15. Anonymous says

    My son and I have done this here in Louisville, KY. I hadn't though of the tuna packs! So glad to see others participating in this 😀

  16. Janie says

    Wonderful..I know you will make it. I also give food when the post office collects it for local towns and to the Harry Chapin food bank. And don't forget pet food too.

  17. Greta says

    What a wonderful idea! It reminds me of one time when a needy person in the subway in NYC was asking for help — anything like spare change or something to eat — and one of my kids gave him a bag of snacks that I had packed for them.

  18. Anonymous says

    You are a great organizer. I always pack an extra PB & J sandwich, granola bars and carry extra fruit with me and share when I see someone panhandling or even someone at the bus stop I'm waiting at. I also try to keep change handy to help someone who is short. I actually started thinking about doing something similar to your birthday adventure (buying a day pass and leaving it stuck to the pay station with a note to pay it forward if they can.) 🙂 I am going to try to be more organized like you once we get another vehicle. 🙂 Thanks for shining
    His beautiful light, Mary.

  19. Katja says

    That´s such a fantastic idea… I will make these bags myself and put them in my car. Thank you for helping and providing such a great idea 🙂

  20. Anonymous says

    If a homeless person asks for money I usually go and buy them groceries instead. My 5-year-old always wants to go give lunches to the homeless, so this a great idea to just have them on hand.

  21. Anonymous says

    I volunteer at a pantry, cooking, baking, roasting helping clients to get food and housing, many live in their cars. It is inclement weather here for about 200 days always cold, this year a drought, windy and cold no rain thanks to God, hunger persists a lot..Not many places helping the hungry and homeless here..It used to be a wonderful place to live but not so much anymore, kids don't go to the high school, no college, lots of drugs, smoking, where are they getting their money from, stealing of homes of people who work and work, we see it all..We are thinking of moving to a less hungry and homeless place but that would be hard, most towns have lost their money for food places due to the congress and senate etc..shame on the congress and senate they live like kings and queens and fabulous retirements and health care for life, oh, my goodness..Love your blog and your ideas for the hungry and homeless..I will show it to my friends, they will think of others and try to make what you said you did on your blog.God's Blessings to you!

  22. katmanning says

    I work in a local grocery and we always see people putting things back because they are a little short on their bill … I always try to have a little extra in my pocket so that I can keep that mother or father from having to put the gallon of milk back for just being a few cents short. I won't help tho if they are also buying booze or cigarettes.

    • Anonymous says

      What an awesome way to pay it forward. I have been in those other shoes and was blessed by the kindness of people like you. I am so grateful I can now help by paying it forward. Not a lot but as I know from personal experience, every little bit helps. Thank you for the blessings you pass on to others…

  23. Anonymous says

    Simple question – do you hand these 'lunches' to the folks on the street corners, etc.? After shopping I have stopped and handed them food: like soup/fruit (with w/the pull tab), soda crackers (opened my new box & pulled out a package), etc. Feeding our 'neighbors' and caring for others is everyone's job, to the best of our abilities. Thank You Mary and everyone else who does the same or something similar. Cheers…

  24. Eleisia Whitney says

    Such a good idea to provide sack lunches for the homeless. Thanks for the food ideas. Your children are learning to care about others less fortunate. Our family gives to all the food drives in our area.

  25. Krystina Grant says

    I thin this is awesome. I don't really have the extra cash to help (On SSI) but if I could I would. But you're doing awesome and I am so happy knowing there are those people out there to help where they can. Thank God I'm not homeless for the time being, but it really is tough when you don't have food to eat and no way to get any.

  26. Sybil says

    Thank you for doing this……you are the best. Our teachers donate food and money to fill weekend backpacks for our needy kids. Our church also does the backpack project for one of the elementary schools. A hungry child cannot learn. It makes a real difference to our school kids and our senior citizens.

  27. Sharon Seneker says

    All great ideas except the granola bars. I am the director of a ministry and homeless people have poor dental care and granola bars, nuts, jerky hurt their gums. Thanks for helping those in need!

    • Mary says

      Thanks for taking the time to leave that note. I actually learned that about nuts and granola bars a few years ago and updated a few of the other posts on this site to reflect that. I need to update this one now too!

  28. Michele says

    God is so amazing! You have been a blessing to me today. I’ve been praying on how to make a difference in my community. Packing lunches for the homeless was what moved my heart, but I didn’t know how to start. God will truly reveal what we need at just the right time. Thank you so much. May God bless you and your family and all you do.