Food banks want more rice, less ramen, please. As businesses, churches and schools begin kicking off holiday food drives, food banks are asking givers to consider the health needs of recipients and the nutritional content of donated items.
“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,” the Washington Post reports. Food pantry officials say they appreciate all donations, but they’d like to see more people giving the kind of healthy items they would feed themselves or their own families.
This doesn’t mean food banks only want pricey items or all organics or anything like that. But less heavy-syrup fruit cocktails, high-sodium soups and canned ravioli and more rice, beans and bags of whole wheat pasta could make a big difference. Many food banks won’t accept perishable items, like fresh fruit and produce—but some do. Checking with the agency you’re donating to for what they want and need most is a good idea.
Lest you think this is just a matter of food banks imposing nutrition on low-income recipients: Bog Dolgan, an executive with The Greater Chicago Food Depository (which supplies 650 Chicago-area pantries, soup kitchens and shelters) said the organization doesn’t actually see a lot of demand for candy, chips and soda. “They want meat, dairy, bread, produce,” he said.
Here’s a list of healthy, inexpensive packaged items food bank operators seek:
• low sugar cereals
• peanut butter
• canned or plastic containers of 100% juice
• unsweetened applesauce
• dried fruit or raisins
• low-sodium canned vegetables
• bags of chickpeas, lentils, pinto, white, kidney or black beans
• whole wheat pasta
• canned tuna
• powdered milk fortified with vitamin D
• tomato sauce
• low-sugar individual oatmeal packets
• whole-grain crackers
Sherrie Tussler, the executive director of Milwaukee’s Hunger Task Force’s Milwaukee, points out that food organizations can always use cash donations, too. “A $15 donation goes a long way toward getting fresh, healthy stuff,” Tussler said.