Donate Healthier Items to Food Pantries This Holiday Season

By , SparkPeople Blogger
During the holiday season many schools, religious groups, and businesses conduct food drives for local food pantries. In the rush to grab something to contribute, nutrition or food safety isn't always high on the list of considerations. While the generous efforts of donating are appreciated, sometimes the food from pantry shelves is past the expiration date, which causes them to have to be tossed out instead of being able to benefit those that need it. Many of the typical non-perishable choices picked up at grocery stores tend to be high in sodium, sugar, or calories, which do not provide maximum nutrition for those that really need to make every bite count.
This winter, more people than ever are expected to visit a local food bank or seek out a pantry or assistance for utilities, housing and medical care than ever before. Use this list of suggestions to makeover your food pantry donations this holiday season and all winter long. Your healthier donations will go a long way to help those who receive them be as healthy as possible.

  • Tuna packed in water

  • Peanut butter

  • Dried beans such as pinto or black

  • Powdered milk fortified with vitamin D or boxed shelf stable milk or soy milk

  • If you know of a local pantry that can accept frozen foods, call ahead to see if they can store turkey, chicken, fluid milk, or liquid egg whites.  

  • Readymade sugar free pudding
  • Fiber rich cereals such raisin bran or old fashion oats

  • Whole wheat pasta

  • Brown rice

  • Low sodium varieties of canned pasta

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Canned fruit in juice or water instead of heavy syrup

  • No sugar added applesauce (in plastic bottles)

  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice

  • Raisins or other dried fruits

  • Low sodium canned vegetables or soups

  • Boxed powdered or flaked potatoes (without additives)

  • Low sodium canned tomato products and spaghetti sauces

  • Low sugar spreadable fruit instead of jelly
Other Items
  • Spices such as olive or canola oil, basil, cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, or oregano

  • Consider purchasing items in bulk from a warehouse club to get the most for your money.

  • Local supermarket gift cards
Taking a few minutes to take the Feeding America Hunger Quiz will reveal that one in six Americans do not have access to enough food to sustain a healthy life. Thirty-six percent of the individuals served by the Feeding America network have at least one working adult in the family. The USDA reports that more than 17 million children are living in food-insecure households. Inadequate nutrition for families not only affects children's physical growth but also their cognitive and behavioral development as well and everyone in the home is more susceptible to experiencing irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating on tasks. If your family is blessed with the ability to live without the worry of food insecurity, consider helping others through food donation receive the same blessing. 
Have you donated to a local food pantry or food bank in the past? Will you be willing to make regular donations throughout 2012? Is there more we can do to help?