Valentine's Day is only five days off, but as we prepare to celebrate the hearts that lovers everywhere share, today we are taking time out to open all of our hearts for a very different reason.

Today (Thursday, February 9) is Giving Hearts Day, which is dedicated to encouraging everyone to donate as much as they possibly can to the charitable organizations that help others within their community.

And so to help inspire you to find as much generosity within your own heart as possible, we've prepared a short list of items that you can provide to the charities here at home to assist in making certain that at least one less person knows the pain of hunger or the discomfort of being without something they desperately need.

Our list was compiled with the assistance of the human services organization Upper Valley MEND of Leavenworth, which is just one of many outstanding not-for-profit entities that is lending a helping hand in North Central Washington.

eggs in the plate

Not surprisingly, eggs are in very short supply at not only most of the food banks here at home, but all over the nation as well.

The skyrocketing cost of this protein-rich, dietary staple for so many has made it almost completely unattainable for those in need.

So if you are financially fortunate enough to still easily afford these little ovoid delicacies, why not grab a few extra cartons for the neighbors you have who would also love to have some.

We recommend those which are certified organic, pasture-raised, and Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved too, if possible. After all, we must also remember to give the goodness of our hearts to the millions of chickens who provide us with this favorite treat too!

Kobe beef with garlic,salt and pepper

If you've been to the supermarket lately, you obviously know that eggs aren't the only staple whose price is going through the roof.

Another perishable which is becoming more and more scarce at food banks everywhere is meat.

From bacon and sausage to ground beef and steak, chicken and pork chops, the rising cost of fresh meats means those who weren't able to enjoy much of them before are now having to go completely without.

So as you shop the butcher's case for your own family, why not pick up a few selections for your extended family of fellow humans who could use some too?

Citrus cocktail, jug, pieces of fruit on a dark background, selective focus

It might seem like apples to oranges in your household, but for those in need, being without this critical provider of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can mean the difference between staying well and potentially being unhealthy.

Juices are also an especially important item for food banks to keep on hand because their nutritional benefits are enjoyed by children, as well as adults.

One thing to keep in mind when picking up this staple to donate is making certain that you select only those products which contain 100% fruit juice. Products with added sugars, colorings, and preservatives are not as good for the human body and should be avoided.

open jar of peanut butter with spoon

Protein is something that every person needs to maintain good health, and even those who don't choose to eat meat know how vital foods like peanut butter are at making certain they get the proper amount in their diet.

It doesn't matter if it's creamy, chunky, or even extra chunky - any way you split this shell, peanut butter is still relatively inexpensive and has a broad range of applications for mealtime.

When choosing a peanut butter to share with your neighbors in need, we suggest selecting one with the least amount of only all natural ingredients. Did you know some economy brands actually contain a class of chemicals called polyfluoroalkyls, which are also used in things like shampoo, sunscreen, and even waterproof make up! These substances don't break down in the environment, so you can only imagine what they must do inside your body :-(

Here are some other items that are always a great choice for donating to your local food bank:

· Cereal (with first ingredient whole grain)
· Cheese
· Milk and yogurt
· Soups (low or no salt added)
· Canned Tomatoes (diced, stewed, sauce, etc.)
· Fresh Fruit & Vegetables
· Pasta
· Tuna
· Rice
· Canned Fruit
· Regular (all purpose) flour
· Oatmeal
· Spices and dried herbs
· Potatoes
· Onions
· Canned Beans
· Canned Vegetables
· Dry Beans
And remember, there are also plenty of other essentials you can donate that don't come from the grocery isles, including soap, deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes, diapers, toilet paper, and feminine hygiene products.

Thank you in advance for opening your heart and making a difference in our world on this Giving Hearts Day. By doing so, your own heart will also benefit by knowing it has helped a fellow heart beat a little happier and healthier :-)

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