The holiday season inspires generosity, not just toward those close to us, but also to those in need—which includes an ever-increasing number of Americans. Feeding America, a network of 200-plus food banks nationwide, now provides food to 1 out every 8 people (including 14 million children)—nearly 50 percent more than just four years ago.
At least one organization, nonprofit SuperFood Drive (superfooddrive.com), suggests an emphasis on healthy food donations could make a dent in that number. “SuperFood Drive aims to make nutrient-dense food available to everyone, regardless of income,” says spokesperson Jessica Roeckel. “Nutritious food could help reduce the amount of money recipients spend on medications and other medical needs, leaving more money for food.”
Make healthier donations. When selecting canned and packaged goods, go for low-sodium soups, fruits in their own juices, tuna packed in water, whole-grain pastas. And remember, healthier doesn’t have to mean more expensive, especially when you buy by the case, for which many natural products stores extend discounts.
Think outside the boxes (and cans). Many food banks and pantries accept fresh and frozen foods. “Frozen chicken or meat is always a critical need, especially in family-pack sizes,” says Denise Holland, CEO of Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia, South Carolina.
Write a check, or give your time. Because of their not-for-profit status and bulk-buying power, food banks can stretch your dollar, Holland says. For example, Harvest Hope leverages $1 into 7 pounds of food (about seven meals). Volunteers can pack and sort food, drive vans, and more.
Let your store do the shopping. Stores often partner with food banks, allowing you to purchase a prepacked bag of food or add a dollar to your bill at the check stand.
Make it a regular thing. Donations are greatly appreciated at the holidays, but the need remains—or even increases—at other times of year. “Summer months are the most difficult,” Holland says. “Anytime children are out of school, parents are working to provide three meals a day instead of one or two.”
Top 7 nonperishable superfoods
1. Canned wild salmon and tuna, packed in water
2. Dried blueberries
4. Whole grains(rolled oats, brown rice, popcorn)
5. Green tea
6. Canned beans/legumes (black beans, garbanzo, lentils, nut butters)
7. Extra-virgin olive oil