It was one of those most pleasant emails, an invite to a holiday coffee party from a friend— always a welcome thing to pop up in my inbox. But after the details of the invitation was this message:

“Please feel free to bring a friend, but not any hostess gifts. Instead, please consider bringing a manual can opener. Need an explanation? It’s hard to open the can of green beans you got at the food shelf if you don’t have a can opener, and equally hard to use your electric can opener if your power’s been turned off.”

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The invitation came from a volunteer at Eden Prairie’s PROP Food Shelf and PROP Shop. Although I’ve donated to food shelves before, it never occurred to me that something like a manual can opener could be valued at a food shelf. I Twittered about that need and heard back from a friend in Chicago, whose local food shelf is requesting “kitchenless” food items: foods that don’t need refrigeration and can be eaten without cooking, such as pop-top cans of tuna.

It made me wonder what else was most needed, so I did a little digging around. Here’s what I learned from a random sampling of local food shelves. All accept food and cash donations.

Second Harvest Heartland says there’s no specific item they’re in greatest need of, but instead, need some of everything. A cash donation of $5 provides 18 meals.

The Emergency Food Shelf asks for nutritious, healthy donated food items. If you click on that link, they have examples in each food group.

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St. Paul’s Neighborhood House has a wide variety of cultural and ethnic needs, including curry paste, jack fruit, and bean thread and rice sticks. Click the link to see the full list.

The ICA Food Shelf in Minnetonka has a list of current needs right on its homepage.

CEAP, which serves people in all of Anoka County and parts of Hennepin County, also has a wish list on its website. CEAP also has an extensive network of suppliers that provide discounts, so a $5 donation allows CEAP to buy $25 worth of food.

Keystone Community Services in St. Paul has a PDF listing its most-needed items.

This is only a sampling of the many organizations around the Twin Cities—and the state—providing these services for people in need. You can find a more extensive list of Minnesota food shelf organizations at Hunger Solutions MN.

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What else is happening in our state? Be sure to check out the 10 p.m. Sunday night WCCO newscasts, where you can learn more in the weekly segment, Finding Minnesota.