How to Feed Your Dog If You’re Food Insecure

One of the bright spots of COVID-19 has been seeing shelters clear out. Because people have spent more time at home, they’ve been able to find room in their schedules, homes and hearts for a fur baby. And while this is great news, there’s another side to the pandemic: Record unemployment has made many people food insecure. When mom and dad are struggling to put food on the table, it begs the question: How can they fill up their dog’s dish?

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” says Marc Peralta, Chief Program Officer at Best Friends Animal Society. “How is that going to impact every aspect of their life, including pets that they may not have the resources and funding to keep? We want to keep families together, which includes the furry family members as well.”

There are resources out there to help you help you feed your dog if you’re food insecure. Marc shares where to look, how to manage and why you shouldn’t feel guilty about asking for help.

feed your dog if you're food insecure

A Dalmatian dog eats her dinner in the family kitchen. Photo: SolStock

Food pantries can help you feed your dog if you’re food insecure

Marc says the best resource for pet parents is food pantries and banks. There are ones specifically set up for pets. Try Googling “pet food pantry near me” or “pet food bank near me.” If you’re not having much luck, pick up the phone.

“Call a local shelter because if they are not doing a pet food pantry, I can guarantee they’ll know who is,” Marc says. “Same with veterinarians.”

Communities often have resource numbers you can dial, such as New York City’s 311.

That’s something else really quickly if you don’t want to do Google searches,” Marc says.

Try to save

Marc also suggests sitting down and looking at your weekly and monthly expenses. Is there something you can cut temporarily that would enable you to purchase pet food?

“I have been a man who has lived on very little at many points in my life,” Marc says.

Check weekly circulars for coupons as well. You may be able to find some for dog food. If not, you may find some for people food and other necessities. If possible, you can put the leftover money toward dog food.

feed your dog if you're food insecure

Pet supplies section in grocery store. Photo: Bill Oxford/Getty Images

Look for samples

Often, pet stores and even big-box retailers like Wal-Marts will have an abundance of food samples you can stock up on. If they don’t, you’re struggling or if your dog only eats a certain kind of food and there aren’t any samples available, call the vendor.

“Tell them the situation,” Marc says. “I’d be shocked … if they wouldn’t be willing to send you coupons to help you get through a tough time and keep you long-term.”

Don’t feel guilty about needing help

It can be humbling — and even embarrassing — to ask for help. We promise our pets we’ll be able to help them their entire lives, and you may feel inadequate for needing assistance. In these unprecedented times, Marc wants you to know you’re not alone in these unprecedented times, and it’s not your fault.

“People want to help,” he says. “They need to understand that you need help. … Sometimes we have to rely on the help of others, and hopefully, we can give back at some point.”

Featured photo: SolStock/Getty Images

Read Next: 8 Ways to Find Affordable Vet Care for Your Dog


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