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Healthier Donations for Food Pantries This Holiday Season
How Healthy is the Food You are Donating to Food Pantries?
Are you donating food to local food pantries this holiday season? If you have already, then good for you. Thank you for thinking of the less fortunate! If you haven't yet donated, but plan to, I ask that you first consider one thing. Is the food you are donating healthy?
I did part of my dietetic internship at a local food pantry that worked with people who had special dietary needs. The majority of our clients were diabetics and many had heart problems as well. We tried to provide them with foods that would work with the special diets their medical conditions required. It was there I realized that I needed to be more conscientious of the nutritional value of the food I was donating each holiday season.
I was totally guilty of going through my pantry and picking out foods I didn't want any more, throwing them in a bag, and sending them off to the food pantry. I would give myself a pat on the back for thinking of others during the crazy holiday season and then never give it another thought. But the truth of the matter is most of what I was donating, I didn't deem healthy enough to serve my family. So was I really helping the needy or was I just cleaning out my pantry?
When I stopped and considered the nutritional value of what I typically donate, was I really helping them at all? Or was I just contributing to further health problems by giving them highly processed box mixes and full of sodium canned soups?
Photo Credit: OctavioLopezPeople who live in the poorest areas of the United States are the most prone to obesity. (Source) This is most likely due in part to the poor quality of their diet. Processed foods are cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables. The poor are less likely to have medical insurance and are less likely to see a doctor regularly.The poor are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions, like diabetes, that could have been prevented with better dietary choices.
"Poor Americans live in neighborhoods where fresh fruit and vegetables are hard to obtain, but where fast foods are abundant. Meanwhile, rich people can afford to shop at Whole Foods, work out and hire personal trainers."
--- Stanton Peele in The Huffington Post
10 Healthier Food Pantry Donation Choices
So now that you are aware that the nutritional value of food pantry donations matter, what are the best foods to donate in terms of health? Here are ten great choices for including in your donations this holiday season.
Tip: Call the food pantry ahead of time to ask what they need most. Focus on those items for your donations.
- Whole Grain Pasta
- Brown Rice
- Rolled Oats (not instant which can be high in sodium)
- Whole Grain Cereals with low sugar, like Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Wheaties
- Dried Beans
- Natural Peanut Butter (no sugar added)
- Canned Fruit (canned in juice, not syrup)
- Low Sodium Canned Vegetables
- Canned Meats and Fish (packed in water, not oil)
- Low Fat Shelf-Stable Milk (canned or dried)
Great Deals on Food Pantry Donation Staples
If you are already making an Amazon purchase, why not add on a couple of staple items that your local food pantry needs? One advantage of shopping on Amazon is that if you spend $25 or more, you receive free shipping! (Some exclusions apply.)
Food pantries need donations year round!
Donations peak during the holidays, but then taper off the rest of the year. So try to space out your donations throughout the year, if you can.
Ways to Donate Healthier Foods Without Breaking the Bank
There's no denying that processed foods are dirt cheap, but at what expense to our health? With some careful shopping, healthier foods can be just as inexpensive as unhealthier ones. With a little planning you will be able to spend the same amount of money and have a bag full of healthy foods to give to your local food pantry.
If you want to donate healthier foods to food pantries but don't want to spend a fortune, here are some tips for saving money on healthier options.
1. Take advantage of Buy 1 Get 1 sales. If you were going to buy the item anyway, why not donate the second one you got for free to a food pantry?
2. Use a coupon if you can. When you are clipping coupons, save the ones for foods that would make healthy donations for a food pantry, even if you don't usually use the item.
3. Combine coupons and sales for even more savings. Most stores allow you to use a coupon on sale items.
4. Keep an eye out for loss leaders. These are items that are deeply discounted to lure you into the store. If you have a coupon you can use on it too, you can often get healthy foods to donate for pennies on the dollar, or even free!
Cash and Gift Cards Are Also Appreciate by Food Pantries
Don't have time to run around looking for bargains on healthy foods that you can donate? An alternative is to give food pantries a monetary donation or a gift card to a local grocery store. That way the food pantry director can use it for the foods the pantry needs most.
Food Pantries Can Use Your Help Through the Holidays and the Rest of the Year as Well.
Are You Donating Food to the Poor This Holiday Season?
Do you give back to the community some other way? Share how you are helping the less fortunate this holiday season.