Donate more fruits and veggies to your local food banks!
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Food pantries, food banks, and other food assistance programs receive plenty of foods that are heavy on calories and salt, and light on nutrients. In attempts to provide better nutrition, they are asking for healthier choices.
WHAT WE KNOW
The season of giving has started with schools, churches and businesses kicking off food drives that have become annual holiday traditions. But many food banks are asking donors to think twice before dropping ramen noodles and frosted cereals in donation barrels.
According to the Household Food Security in the United States, 2009 economic report*, in 2009, 14.7 % of U.S. households were food insecure, meaning at any point during the year they could not provide an adequate amount of nutritious and safe food for their families. This percentage is remaining at the highest level observed since food security surveys were initiated in 1995! More households have sought additional resources from public and private sources. The largest increase occurred between 2007 and 2009, when households using food pantries rose by 44% from 3.9 to 5.6 million households!
With the holiday season in full swing, food pantries have come to the frontline to provide nutritious dinners to families in need. Pantry officials are asking people to help them provide the most nutritious meals possible to these families in need.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
Many commonly donated foods are high in salt, sugar or calories, making them poor choices for people with high blood pressure, diabetes and other diet-related health problems (which is a large part of the population!). With more people turning to food banks (and for longer periods of time), agency officials need donations that promote health rather than hinder it!
While calories from saturated fat and added sugar may be cheaper now, the detrimental effects of consuming large amounts of low-nutrient-dense and high-fat foods can lead to increased medical costs in the future.
When donating, select foods from these 4 categories …
1. Fruits & Veggies—all forms (fresh, frozen, canned, dried & 100% juice).
- Low-sodium vegetable soups and stews and tomato sauce
- Canned fruits and veggies, avoiding fruit packed in heavy syrups
- Dried fruits and veggies store well, look for those with no added sugar
- 100% fruit and vegetable juice (read the label to make sure it is 100% juice)
- Fresh fruits & veggies—most food banks do accept fresh vegetables and fruit
2. Lean Proteins
- Canned meats such as tuna, chicken and fish, are high in protein and low in saturated fat
- Almond butter or peanut butter
- Canned or dried beans and peas
- Prepared box dinners—choose low-sodium options with lots of fruits & veggies
3. Whole Grains
- Rice and pasta—choose whole wheat pastas (or pastas made from legumes) and brown rice
- Oatmeal—choose whole oats that aren’t already sweetened
- Shelf-stable milk—this includes dehydrated milk, canned evaporated milk, and instant breakfasts
Food donations peak during the holiday season, but remember to provide a helping hand all year round. Visit our Community Happenings Section and search by zip code for events in your community!