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What foods should I donate to my local food bank?


Laura Marbury, MS, RD, LD

Question: "My family and I are getting ready to donate to a local food bank this holiday season. As a dietitian, what foods do you recommend we provide?"

First of all, thank you for addressing a great need in our society today. According to the Feeding American website, 49 million American’s live in food insecure households and face hunger on a daily basis. These people rely on your donations.

While all food is appreciated, try to be helpful and healthful when you donate. Consider the MyPlate guidelines and try to incorporate all of the five recommended food groups in your donation. Non-perishable items work well for food banks because they store easily and won’t expire before they get to the consumer. The problem is that not all shelf-stable items are created equal. Some can be full of sodium and additives and short on nutrients.

Look for simple whole-grains like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and old-fashioned oats. Pick fruits canned in water instead of sugary syrup and lower-sodium canned vegetables. For protein, tuna fish, peanut butter and dried beans are all great options.

Milk is the number one nutritious food item requested at food banks, and for good reason. Just one, eight-ounce glass provides eight grams of protein as well as calcium, potassium and vitamin D; nutrients most Americans are missing out on. Due to lack of donations, however, this request is rarely met.

Fortunately, this is starting to change thanks to The Great American Milk Drive. This one-of-a-kind program is delivering highly-desired and nutrient-rich milk to hungry families in communities who need it most. All you have to do to donate is visit or text “Milk” to 27722. By entering your ZIP code, you can ensure that the milk is delivered to a Feeding America food bank in your community.

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