The holidays are the perfect time to give back, but it can be daunting to figure out the right way. Should you volunteer at a soup kitchen? Contribute clothing to the Salvation Army? Host a fundraiser? One of the easiest ways to lend a helping hand is simply to donate money to your favorite cause, but even that poses some challenges.
Which charity should you choose? The short answer: There isn't really a wrong decision. The whole idea is that you're picking a charity that resonates with you and, if it does, everybody wins.
Of course, it's always smart to do some research to find out where your donations are going. Ideally, you want the majority of the funds to go to the mission, not to peripheral activities or events. A good starting point is GuideStar, which has up-to-date information and financial records for nearly two-million charitable organizations.
Still not sure? Here are 10 of our top picks for food nonprofits this season, or really any time.
1. Improve school food.
Donate $50 and provide daily access to fruits and veggies for 10 school kids through the Chef Ann Foundation. Started by chef Ann Cooper, this nonprofit funds initiatives that increase exposure to produce, transition cafeterias away from processed foods, increase salad bars in schools, and more.
2. Save heirloom seeds.
Seed Savers, a Decorah, Iowa-based working farm and research station, works to preserve heirloom varieties of plants — so we can enjoy them on our tables while also protecting biodiversity. Make a donation, become a member, or buy packets of seeds and plan your summer garden while curled up by the fire.
3. Help Flint.
Give to the Flint Water Fund (through the United Way of Genesee County), which continues to provide bottled water to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. It's also sourced over 11,000 filters since the crisis began.
4. Feed hungry families.
Support the one in seven people in America who struggles with hunger by giving to Feeding America — or use their site to connect with your local food bank.
5. Support humane farming.
Help improve living conditions for the meat we eat by supporting the Certified Humane Program. (And look for their label the next time you're at the meat counter at stores like Whole Foods.)
6. Clean up drinking water.
Over 600 million people around the world lack access to clean drinking water, but your donation of just $10 a month to charity: water can provide clean water to four people every year. Plus, 100 percent of donations go directly towards water projects.
7. Save the bees.
Founded by the folks behind the Savannah Bee Company, Bee Cause connects kids with honey bees and hives to get them interested from an early age. Get your local school involved, make a donation, or shop the charity for gifts.
8. Grow urban gardens.
Help improve access to urban gardens and farmers markets — along with community engagement around nutrition and fresh food — by supporting Urban Harvest.
9. Do right for the fish.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely known for their Seafood Watch program — which helps consumers make more sustainable choices at the fish counter — but it also works to foster ocean conservation, fund scientific research, and host experiential learning.
10. Help kids grow.
Donate to the Whole Kids Foundation and help fund grants for school gardens. It's an easy way to train the next generation to love good food.
Do you have a favorite food-oriented charity you like to give to? Please do share!