Have you ever wondered what donated foods in food drives might make the best choices for hungry folks in your area? As part of my Food Pantry Project volunteer training yesterday, we visited the splendid Food for Lane County facility, and saw the storehouse for all the efforts that they do on behalf of hunger relief. We discussed how the USDA and corporate donors historically supplied a great deal of the bulk grains, dried legumes, dried milk and cereals, but the souring economy has severely reduced those supplies. In short, we’re facing a food crisis and there’s quite a bit you can do.
I’m going to write a longer post on this topic as I start my volunteer work at local food banks sharing information about government commodity foods, but I wanted to send out a plea for the most requested items for individual donations to drop stations and during food drives:
- peanut butter (shelf-stable (i.e., not “natural” like the one I pictured above) is best)
- canned tunafish
- canned fruits and vegetables (consider giving low-sugar and low-sodium versions)
- canned meals, such as soups, beef stew or chili (consider giving low-sodium versions)
- rice and pasta (consider giving brown rice and whole-grain pasta)
The above-listed items are the ones recommended by Food for Lane County. The instructors in my Food Pantry Project class also encouraged donations of instant oatmeal, dried soups, and legumes. And, as the summer goes on, if you have fresh produce from your harvest you’d like to donate, please contact Food for Lane County to discuss how to do this.
Basically, when you’re thinking about which foods to choose, consider the nutritional content of the food. Items that are shelf-stable with high protein content or enriched with vitamins are great. Canned meals can be eaten by people who don’t have a stove. If you donate something like a can of chili and a can of kidney beans, those items can be combined to stretch the meal even farther. Tuna can boost the protein in a rice casserole.
This area (and Oregon in general) has a significant diabetic population, so something else to keep in mind is the sugar content of donated foods. People do donate candy and soda, and there are many better options.
If you donate an expired or dented can of food, it isn’t necessarily destroyed. I’m not sure if this is the policy at all food banks, but I do know that some offer these products (after checking them carefully, of course) for voluntary pickup by patrons of the food bank.
If you donate a huge bag of say, oatmeal, food banks can portion it out and provide it in boxes in smaller bags. Food for Lane County also accepts bags and cans of pet food for local relief agencies for animals.