As the holidays edge nearer and the unemployment rate remains hovering around 10%, Americans have begun making more donations to local food banks.
The concept of food banks seems like one that would be difficult to manage- while generosity is a wonderful thing, the nature of donations of food and not money could yield fairly unpredictable results for the charitable organizations. And this year, food banks have acknowledged some of the frustrations they face in feeding the hungry over the high-demand holiday season. While donations abound, food banks admit, some are not ideal or even unusable as they are often expired or full of unhealthy additives, sugar or fat.
As a for instance, Sherrie Tussler, head of Hunger Task Force’s Milwaukee office, says many folks donate ramen noodles because they affectionately recall turning to the low-cost, shelf-stable staple during their college years. But for families facing long-term food insecurity with growing children, ramen may not be a healthy option for frequent consumption:
“We say, if that’s what you’re going to give, turn around and get a bag of rice,” Tussler said. “It’s just as good a value, it lasts for more meals and there’s no salt.”
As a guideline, food banks have offered up a list of some better options as well as some that tend to be discarded or undesirable, copied below. Food banks also remind donors that while food is good, cash is always better, and say even small amounts can make a huge difference.
• low-sugar cereal such as Cheerios or Chex
• peanut butter
• cans or plastic containers of juice (make sure it’s 100 percent juice)
• canned vegetables, any variety, marked lite or low-sodium
• bags of pinto or black beans
• canned tuna fish
• and powdered milk fortified with vitamin D
Donors should avoid:
• Foods high in sodium, fat, oils or sugar
• Chips, candy, cookies and crackers
• Sugary beverages
• Items in glass bottles
• Items that are expired or in damaged packaging