Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays
Give a gift of food
Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
With the holiday season in full swing, many people are thinking about the festive dinners and bulging potluck meals they will prepare or be invited to. But others are thinking about where they will get their next meal. In northwest Missouri and northeastern Kansas, 52,000 people live with the reality of hunger daily. Consider giving a gift of food for those who are struggling.
When donating food, ensure that items are of good quality. Consider what groceries you would share with a friend or family member if they needed it. Think, too, about what foods taste good or work well together in a meal. And keep in mind good nutrition, mixing foods from various food groups. An alternative option is to give a large quantity of a food that can go with many things or stand alone, like peanut butter or cereal.
Another thing to think about is the local food pantry’s capabilities. Most can accommodate dry goods such as crackers, pasta, dried beans, canned goods, foil-wrapped meats and the like. Some also have refrigeration and/or freezer storage space, so frozen fruits and vegetables and even meat can be accepted. Check with your local pantry to see what types of food it is able to receive and to find out if there are specific items that may be of particular need.
Timing can make a difference, especially if the donated food is fresh or frozen. Some pantries are open twice a week. These sites can accept fresh, frozen and nonperishables and have the traffic flow to distribute them while they are still in good shape. Other pantries are only open a few days per month.
Make sure food is safe. Look out for dented or rusted cans, ripped boxes or bags or other signs that the food would not be safe or fresh to eat. Check the “sell by” or “use by” date, and discard if the food is out of date.
According to Second Harvest Community Food Bank, those in need include “working poor families that have two or more jobs [and] can’t afford to pay their rent, utilities and still have enough left over for food. Seniors have fixed incomes that won’t go far enough to pay for their medications and meals. And children go to bed with their stomachs aching from hunger.”
This holiday season, share a gift of food with neighbors.
For more information on donating food in your community, contact your local food pantry.
Last update: Monday, December 03, 2012