The holiday season is full of opportunities to give food, clothing, toys, and time to people in need. And thank goodness, because when unemployment runs high and resources run low – like is happening now – there is certainly a lot of need to be met.
When it comes to food donations, it’s important to give healthy, high quality non-perishables, rather than cheap processed foods that don’t meet the nutritional needs of most families. Here’s a list of some of the best foods you can give during your local holiday food drive.
1. Canned fish and lean meats. Canned salmon, tuna, and chicken are high in protein and provide a great base for healthy meals.
2. Peanut butter / other nut butters. These – or packaged low-sodium nuts – are great sources of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fat. They’re an especially helpful donation because they’re usually too expensive for food banks to purchase in sufficient quantities.
3. Healthy soups and stews. Look for low sodium, organic, and natural brands of canned soup or stew. These provide needed nutrients and a way for families with limited resources to sit down to a healthy family meal.
4. Whole grain breakfast cereals. Here are some cereal guidelines, so you can make sure you’re donating whole grain, high fiber, low sugar cereals. Hot cereals – like oatmeal, oat bran, muesli, etc – are also great choices. Think about what you’d want your own kids to eat for breakfast, and buy that.
5. Canned or dried beans. These are another great source of protein and fiber, and can be used in a wide variety of meals.
6. Pasta sauce and canned tomatoes. Other canned veggies are OK too, but not always tasty. Marinara sauce and canned tomatoes can be combined with a package of dry pasta and/or canned meat & frozen veggie for a quick, healthy, inexpensive meal.
7. Shelf-stable milk. Powdered milk (dry), boxed milk, or even canned evaporated skim milk provide much-needed calcium and protein, and replace other less-healthy beverage choices.
More than anything, it’s important to donate what you would like to eat or serve your family. People who need help from food banks appreciate good food too!