Donate Safely to Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens
In this season of giving, many of us like to make donations to our local food pantries and soup kitchens; and while that is a great thing to do, it’s important not to just “clean out your cupboard” and donate the foods you don’t want or can’t use anymore.
Food pantries don’t want to waste food they receive, but they also do not want to provide safe or unhealthy food for their customers either.
Here are a few points to remember:
- Do NOT donate food that is past its “best by,” “use by,” or “sell by” date.
- Do NOT donate any foods that are spoiled or rotten (or starting to look that way).
- Do NOT donate foods in damaged packages, such as dented cans; glass jars, plastic or paperboard containers with the seal damaged.
- Do NOT donate home-canned or home-prepared foods because of the large variation in the level of safety methods used by home canners.
- Do NOT donate home baked items, as they usually have a shorter shelf-life than commercially-prepared backed goods, so the risk of food safety issues is higher.
Always donate foods in their original packages with the label still intact. Check with your food pantry to see if they can accept perishable goods such as milk, cheeses or butter. They need to have adequate refrigeration available to be able to accept and safely keep perishable foods.
Although not an issue at this time of year, fresh produce may be an option to donate to your food pantry. Again, you will want to contact the food pantry first to see if they have the correct storage available.
So what should you donate? Donate foods that would fill a healthy and safe plate for the consumer, based on MyPlate recommendations.
For fruits, consider canned in light syrup—peaches, applesauce, raisins, fruit cocktail, apples, oranges, pineapple, pears, cranberries, 100 percent juice.
For vegetables, donate low sodium canned corn, peas, carrots, beets, mixed vegetables, sweet potatoes/yams, tomatoes and tomato sauces, and soups.
For healthful grains, choose whole-grain crackers, brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole-grain breakfast cereal, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, oatmeal and granola bars. You may want to include some gluten-free products too: pastas, cereals, crackers and flours.
If you want to choose a protein source, choose canned or dried beans—kidney, navy, garbanzo, pinto, great northern, black beans, water-packed tuna and salmon, nuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, and nut butters.
For dairy products, choose non-fat dry milk, evaporated milk or shelf-stable milk.
Finally, cash donations are also very useful for food pantries and food banks as they can generally buy food in bulk much more cheaply than consumers. Also, they can buy the items most needed by their clients and will not have to take the time to sort and move donated items.
Economic & Community Development
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