Civic Resources

Ways To Find Free Meals, Groceries In Your Community

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Many charities, churches and nonprofits run local food programs. Information varies greatly by location. Food banks are large warehouses that store food and other grocery items that go to the community. Food pantries distribute these items directly to the community. Some areas where grocery stores are limited, like food deserts and rural communities, have mobile food pantries that deliver door-to-door meals and groceries. Others provide grocery pickup, client choice food pantries and food vouchers.

Even if you aren’t eligible for government benefits like SNAP or WIC, there are other food assistance resources you can access. Thousands of food banks and pantries throughout the country provide meal services and different kinds of food assistance to communities struggling with food insecurity. We’ve compiled some national and state-specific resources on how to find emergency food assistance and more below:

  1. Check out the links below for more information.
  2. Where can I find free food near me?
    Why Hunger: Use this database to search over 37,000 programs (click ‘En Espanol’ button at top)
    Feeding America Search by zip code (ingles)
    Catholic Charities Search by zip code (ingles)
    *Catholic Charities also provides citizenship education and legal services for immigrant and refugee communities. Learn more here (ingles).
    Ample Harvest: Search by zip code (ingles). This directory includes contact information for food banks, pantries, churches and nonprofits.
    No Kid Hungry: Find a location in your area
    – Loaves & Fishes: Use a search engine like Google or Bing to find a pantry in your area (EX: Search ‘loaves and fishes houston’).
  3. What if I’m not eligible for SNAP or WIC? Can I still access a food pantry?
    Yes, you can. You do not need to be enrolled in any kind of benefits to go to a pantry or receive free food.
  4. Do I have to apply to access food pantries?
    No. Most locations have a set day and time of week (possibly more than one) when they distribute food. You do not have to apply. Some areas have meal delivery and grocery pickup that you may have to arrange in advance, while others do weekly meal services and drive-thru distributions. Use WhyHunger’s find food map and search Feeding America for specific programs, locations and hours in your area.
  5. Is food assistance considered a public charge?

No. SNAP and WIC benefits are NOT considered a public charge, and neither is accessing food assistance. Your immigration status will not be affected if you use a program like a food pantry or meal service.

  1. State food banks and pantries:




New York

Food Banks NYC (‘Translate Site’ > Spanish at bottom of page)

Kaley LaQuea is an award–winning print and digital journalist who’s been creating content since 2008. She’s passionate about economic, environmental and social justice. She has an unhealthy relationship with caffeine and two cats: Totoro and Mononoke.