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Give the Gift of Good Food


Jenissa Gordon, BSFCS, Master’s Student and Dietetic Intern, Alison Berg, PhD, RDN, LD UGA Extension Nutrition and Health Specialist.

Have you noticed the Christmas trees creeping in the corners of your usual shopping spots? The weather is cooling down, Halloween candy is on sale, and it’s beginning to look like the most wonderful time of the year. But for some folks, we know the jam-packed holiday season is a difficult time at best. Soon we will see the familiar good Samaritans ringing bells and the call for nonperishable donations in community groups.

You probably have a routine for your end-of-year good deeds ranging from donating those extra ramen noodles to volunteering at a soup kitchen. But what if your New Year’s Resolution to give good food to others came a little early?

Give the Gift of Good Food.

While the well-intended can of soup will warm any child like the Campbell’s® ads from years past, there are some simple traits to look for as you make selections if healthier food donations is what you desire to provide:

  1. Commonly used Dried Spices in plastic shakers
  2. Olive and Canola oil in plastic bottles
  3. Low or no-sodium versions of canned soups/stews, stocks vegetables, and tomato sauces
  4. For canned vegetables, go beyond the stereotypical greened beans and include canned carrots, mushrooms, asparagus, or canned pumpkin.
  5. Canned fruits in juices (not syrups) and low-sugar fruit sauces
  6. Dried fruits like cranberries and banana.
  7. Proteins; like tuna, salmon, and chicken, packed in water instead of oil.
  8. Unsalted nuts in plastic containers and Peanut butter. Choose the regular kind, as the reduced fat versions are higher in sugar.
  9. Low-sodium canned beans and dry beans such as black, garbanzo, and kidney beans
  10. Whole grain pastas and cereals, quinoa, lentils, and brown rice in reasonable sizes (10# bags aren’t practical in a donation center)
  11. Whole- wheat flour and whole-grain pancake mixes (requiring only water)
  12. Oatmeal (as well as other hot cereals like Cream of Wheat), instant and traditional, single serve or canisters, but watch out for extra sugar

Remember a few practical things as well. Cans that don’t require can openers are better able to help those who may not have access. Many donation centers receive an excess of junk foods such as chips, candy, etc. so help add variety to the diets of those in need by really considering the nutritional value of your donations.  While these are pointers for food donations, remember that many donation centers also accept personal hygiene products (including toilet paper!).

These small changes will likely cost you only a few extra seconds to consider the labels, but will ultimately provide better products for those in need. Associations between lack of food and obesity have been documented again and again. By donating healthier foods, you will be doing your part in helping to build a healthier community. Consider extending that resolution to donate during the warmer months too!  Food banks often lack adequate resources during the summer, and people need to eat, and eat well, during the blistering hot months too.

Happy and healthy giving to you and yours this holiday season!