Donation dilemma

Choose nutritious options when donating food this year.

The local elementary school that my boys attended would hold a food drive every year. Pleased with myself that I actually remembered to send food with my boys, my “generosity” was often a way to clean out my pantry. My usual donations consisted of the hidden or unwanted foods in my cupboard, and I justified my choices by thinking “any food was better than no food at all.” I have come to realize that not all calories are created equal, especially when comparing a calorie from highly processed foods with a calorie from foods low in sodium, sugar and fat.

According to 2014 Hunger in America report, almost 80 percent of clients purchase low cost foods just to make ends meet. Often the low cost foods are also the most unhealthy. Clients say they want healthier foods, and food pantries are working hard to offer healthier options for all people. However, donations do not always align with the wants and needs of the clients, especially those with chronic conditions.

Making calories count with the foods you donate

Use the Feeding America healthy food donation list to guide your donation choices. The one-page guide offers example of foods needed, and can easily fit in a purse or wallet so you can access it while shopping! You’ll also want to read this December 2015 Michigan State University Extension article that offers additional suggestions on how to donate healthy and convenient foods. Don’t forget that donations can mean money, too. The food pantry has increased purchasing power through its networks. A one dollar donation can buy 11 meals for people who would otherwise go hungry, according to Feeding America.  

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