Help food pantries meet the dietary needs of all individuals

Keep special dietary needs in mind when contributing food items to pantries.

Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as, “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” Feeding America reports that Michigan faced a 16.4 percent food insecurity rate in 2013; affecting an estimated 1,623,410 people.

Malnutrition is defined by the World Health Organization as a deficiency, excess or imbalance in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. There are two types of malnutrition that are equally important, undernutrition and overweight. Undernutrition, which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and deficiency of important nutrients. Overweight includes obesity and diet-related diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Food distribution centers, pantry’s and food banks can help support the community resident’s nutrition goals. It is critical that our community leaders collaborate in order to increase access to nutritious dietary regulated food options for the people in need. Nutritious food options should include needs of individuals with chronic disease who have specific dietary needs.

If you are part of any of these organizations, donate or attend any of these community food resources, here are some recommendations from the University of Wisconsin Extension and the Washington Food Coalition to help secure the best food products. 

  • Low sodium: This includes individuals with hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Make sure you have foods labeled as “Low Sodium” or “No salt added.” Specifically, cans, tomato paste, soups, sauce and others.
  • Gluten intolerance:  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and all foods made with these grains. Possible food product sources of gluten include bouillon cubes, brown rice syrup, candy, deli meats and hot dogs, gravy, rice mixes, sauces, seasoned snack foods and soup. Look for gluten-free products such as corn, rice, millet, quinoa, popcorn, cassava, potato, amaranth, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, beans, legumes, soy and nuts.
  • Vegetarian and vegan: Some common items suitable for vegetarians and vegans are: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, quinoa, rice, potato, oats, soy and tofu.

If you want to learn more about food pantries and meeting dietary needs visit the University of Wisconsin Extension and the Washington Food Coalition.

Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating.


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