Many of the 49 million individuals struggling with food insecurity in the United States turn to food banks and pantries to help bridge the gap in their nutrition needs. Many families utilize pantries as a regular supplement to help make ends meet during difficult times.
Unfortunately, food pantry donations commonly consist of highly processed foods that are overflowing with sugar, fat, and salt. These foods may help to prevent physical hunger in the short-term, but they can also contribute to negative physical outcomes and chronic diseases in the long-term. If we continue to address hunger without also addressing health, then we are not helping to support wellness in our communities.
What can you do to help?
As a community member providing donations, consider the health of the individuals who will receive your food, and think about whether you would serve the same food to your family. As a pantry or food bank, encourage donors to donate healthy food choices. Provide potential donors with a list of healthy items that you are in need of, and commit to purchasing healthier food with monetary donations. As an organization or school having a food drive, promote healthy messages and encourage the donation of a few healthy staples throughout the drive.
Examples of healthy donations include:
- Shelf-stable milk
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
- Low-sodium canned beans
- Chicken, tuna or salmon, canned in water
- Low-sodium canned vegetables
- Fruit, canned in its own juice
- Spices (Dry and ground)
- Peanut butter
If you’re interested in donating perishable items, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, meats, or frozen foods, check with the pantry or food bank first to make sure they can handle your donation. For more information about healthy food choices, visit www.choosemyplate.org or the Healthy Food Bank Hub.
Chloe Plummer, MS, RD, LD, is a clinical dietitian with ProMedica Advocacy and Community Health, and her main passion is promoting childhood and adolescent health and wellness. She has a bachelor of science degree in Health and Sport Studies from Miami University and a master of science degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University.