Yes, It’s Okay to Donate Canned Goods to Preston & Steve’s Camp Out for Hunger, Though Cash Is Better

What’s billed as the country’s largest single-location food drive returns.

gritty, preston, and pierre robert at the 2019 Preston and Steve Camp Out for Hunger at Xfinity Live

Gritty, Pierre Robert and Preston at the 2019 Preston & Steve Camp Out for Hunger at Xfinity Live (photo courtesy of Chorus Photography)

The Preston & Steve show on WMMR is known for many stunts, whether it’s rolling 10,000 marbles down the Art Museum steps or encouraging listeners to throttle down icy slopes on ridiculously festooned cardboard mega-sleds. Absolute silliness. What’s not so silly is their annual Camp Out for Hunger food drive and fund-raiser for Philabundance, which returns this week.

Every year for the past 24 years, the Preston & Steve crew have left the comfort of their homes for one week to camp out somewhere in Philly (this year, they return to Xfinity Live), encouraging listeners to come by with non-perishable food donations, checks and cash during the morning broadcast. Other WMMR personalities, like Pierre Robert and Jaxon, broadcast from Camp Out for Hunger as well. Big names and local celebrities like Bon Jovi, Cecily Tynan and Gritty have participated. And each year, listeners and local companies donate hundreds of tons of food and sometimes well over $1 million to Philabundance through the event.

It’s the Philadelphia-based hunger-fighting nonprofit’s biggest fund-raiser and food drive of the year, according to Philabundance spokesperson Chelsea Short. Camp Out for Hunger is also believed to be the largest single-location food drive in the entire country.

And while all those cans of beef stew and chili and jars of peanut butter are great, it’s been said many times that donating cash to nonprofits like Philabundance is much better than donating food. So we asked Short what Philabundance’s guidelines were on the subject.

“Either way, we are thankful for the donation,” Short explains. “But it’s true that we are able to do a little bit more with monetary donations, especially with our initiatives where we are providing people with different choices, different types of food, foods that might be more culturally relevant. The monetary donations allow us to provide more diversity in food.”

Short points out that the monetary donations also allow Philabundance to purchase fresh produce, an important part of daily nutrition. And every dollar donated provides two meals to somebody who needs it.

“At the end of the day, we all like peanut butter,” Short says. “But nobody wants to eat it every day. People are always so thankful when we are able to provide them with fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Of course, thousands of people are still going to show up at Camp Out for Hunger throughout the week with canned goods and other items. So it’s important to remember what to bring and what not to bring.

Some of the most-needed items:

  • Creamy peanut butter (plastic containers only)
  • Canned/shelf-stable meats, including tuna
  • Shelf-stable white milk (as opposed to chocolate)
  • Canned beef stew
  • Canned chili
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Hot cereal
  • Basmati rice
  • Jasmine rice
  • Nuts
  • Trail mix
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Jelly (plastic containers only)
  • Canned fruits and vegetables (low-salt, no high-fructose corn syrup)

And things you shouldn’t donate:

  • Beverages other than shelf-stable white milk (and that includes water)
  • Chips, cookies, or other unhealthy snacks
  • Seasonal items like cranberry sauce or peppermint-flavored items
  • Bread and other baked goods

Should you choose to go the monetary-donation route, you can show up at Camp Out for Hunger with cash or a check. You can make an online donation via WMMR’s Camp Out site. Or, if you’re in the checkout line at Acme through November 24th, you can add a Camp Out for Hunger donation in the checkout line. Last year, amid COVID, the Acme donations alone totaled more than $1 million.

“That Acme checkout line makes it really relevant for people,” observes Short. “You’re in the grocery-store line purchasing food to feed your own family, and this inspires people.”