June 2, 2020
Donating Safe and Nutritious Food to Food Pantries
As Kansans begin COVID-19 re-entry phases, the need for food for at-risk populations, others who refrain from going out, and those with limited access to food, remains significant. Over the course of this pandemic many organizations initiated food drives in an effort to fill a much needed void in food pantries. To be certain, the importance of well- stocked pantry shelves will continue far beyond the pandemic.
How can you contribute to this need? Think about giving according to the MyPlate guidelines with foods representing all the groups.
>Fruits and vegetables: low-sodium or no-salt added canned vegetables of any kind; fruit canned in 100% water or no sugar; applesauce with no sugar added; dried fruit; and 100% fruit and vegetable juice
> Whole grains (the first ingredient should say “whole” wheat, corn, etc.): whole grain and enriched pasta; brown or wild rice; whole grain cereals with low sugar; whole grain hot cereals such as oatmeal; whole grain crackers; non-refrigerated tortillas; quinoa; barley; popcorn and whole grain granola bars low in sugar
> Dairy group: low-fat or non-fat shelf stable milk, powdered or UHT; unflavored low-fat soy milk; low-fat pasteurized cheese made from milk, non-refrigerated
> Protein food: canned (or in pouches) meat and fish; canned beans, low- or no-sodium; dried beans and peas; nuts and seeds, low-sodium or no-salt added; and nut butters
> Other items: spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, low-sodium or no salt-added; canned and shelf-stable soups, low-sodium or no salt-added; vegetable oil; flour; spices
If you are in the situation to provide or deliver packaged “meals” some simple combinations might include: Breakfast- Oatmeal, canned fruit or 100% fruit juice; or Boxed whole grain cereal, shelf-stable milk, canned fruit or 100% fruit juice; Lunch- Canned tuna, mayonnaise, canned vegetables, canned fruit; or Peanut butter, jelly, rice cakes; Dinner- Pasta sauce, canned vegetables, canned meatballs; or Whole grain rice, canned chicken, seasoning packet.
There are some items that have no place in a food pantry for food safety reasons such as deeply dented and rusty cans, home-canned and home-made, open or used items, expired products, etc. A good litmus test as to whether or not a food item should be donated is by asking this question, “Would you feed it to your family with regards to safety?” If hesitant, then it’s probably best to discard the product.
Other considerations…contact the food pantry to see if they accept fresh produce; try to provide canned items that have easy open lids; and cash is always welcomed. The following K-State Research & Extension publication will provide more details on providing appropriate donations…Donating Safe and Nutritious Food to Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens…https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3352.pdf.
Post-COVID-19 brings new challenges, but small efforts can make a big difference!
(Sources: Donating Safe and Nutritious Food to Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens, KSRE, MF3352 rev.; Stocking a Healthy Food Pantry Checklist, University of Wisconsin Extension)