Making the case for healthier food donations

What does “food insecurity” mean? It means people or households are limited in their resources to buy food. It can also mean they’re running out of food, cutting the quality of their food, eating unbalanced meals and maybe even skipping meals. Food insecurity is closely linked with high rates of obesity, diabetes and other health problems, and this is partly due to the lack of choices supplied by food pantries. As families depend on donated foods more and more for a greater share of their nutritional needs, the quality of those foods becomes more important. Local research has shown that one-third of all donated pantry food is of low nutritional value, damaged or very outdated.

This explains why your donation of healthy food is so vital; it keeps shelves stocked with healthy food. Every donation makes a difference to our neighbors in need, no matter how big or small.

Because people most often answer to food drives by pulling cans from the back of pantries, we focus on transforming this process through community outreach and teaching to encourage healthy food donations to give healthy foods to those who would not otherwise have access to them. There are three steps to the “Food Drive Five” philosophy.

» Choose from the “Food Drive Five:” Protein foods (peanut butter, nuts, seafood and poultry); fruits (packed in juice, dried or sauced); soups (with protein and vegetables); whole grains (pasta, cereal); and colorful canned vegetables.

» Choose lower-salt choices.

» Check for expiration dates. We thank you for your generosity! Here are some thoughts and tips on how you or your organization can help:

» Commit to donating foods listed on the “Food Drive Five” list.

» Note the dates of large food drives in Sheboygan County and plan to give from the Food Drive Five as often as you can. These include letter carriers’ initiatives, Scouting for Food, Making Spirits Bright, or food drives by schools, work places and churches.

» Start a food drive of your own and promote the Food Drive Five at work, church, school, your neighborhood or anywhere.

» Hand out flyers, share information through social media, newsletters and bulletins, and make announcements in meetings

» At your next birthday party, ask for healthy food donations instead of presents on party invitations.

» Hold a “Souper Bowl” Food Drive that collects soups and healthy crackers. Now you know what we need. We appreciate all donations and encourage you to donate foods that will help make our community well fed and healthy.

Liz Kroll is the executive director of the Sheboygan County Food Bank.