Healthy Pantry
Photo Source: Angela Hinkle

We eat to survive, right? Yes, but when you really think about it, we eat to thrive. Food is more than calories for energy. Food brings family and friends together. It provides comfort. It makes our bodies healthy and can protect us from diseases. The next time you give to a food pantry, think about what you can give to help those in need thrive, not just survive. So, how do you donate food to thrive?


A Balanced Diet

It’s important to eat from every food group every day. It’s important to give those in need the chance to eat every food group every day. This way, they get a variety of nutrients needed for healthy bodies. Choose healthier choices from each food group. See https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ for more information.


Fruits & Veggies: Half MyPlate

  • Fruits and vegetables provide so many good vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.
  • All forms count – canned, frozen, fresh, dried, and juice.
  • Canned fruit in 100% juice (Lite or heavy syrup equals a little or a lot of added sugar.)
  • Juices that are 100% fruit or vegetables.
  • Low- or no-sodium canned vegetables (Higher sodium intake tends to go hand-in-hand with higher blood pressure.)
  • Try to stay away from high-fat, high-sodium, and high-sugar syrups and sauces.
  • Packaged dried fruits and veggies are both popular now.
  • The more fruits and vegetables, the better!


Whole Grains

  • The whole edible part of the grain plant gives us fiber and loads of nutrients to keep us healthy. They even have special parts that help fight diseases.
  • Look for the word whole at the beginning of the ingredient list.
  • Help pantries stock whole grain crackers, hot and cold cereals, and tortillas. Donate whole grain pasta and brown rice.


Lean Proteins

  • Protein helps build and repair tissue.
  • Protein provides the building blocks of muscles, bones, skin, and blood.
  • Go for lower-sodium and lower-fat choices. (Most of us over the age of two don’t need that extra fat.)
  • Donate tuna, chicken, or salmon in water.
  • Peanut butter is always popular.
  • Try offering a variety of packaged seeds and nuts.


Dairy

  • The calcium in dairy foods makes strong bones and teeth.
  • Try low-fat versions of shelf-stable milk.
  • Non-fat dry milk is great for sauces and casseroles as well as drinking. (If used for drinking, it tastes best to add the coldest water possible.)
  • Low-fat yogurt and cheeses are a nice complement for pantries with refrigeration.
  • For those who can’t have dairy, offer calcium-fortified soy or almond milk, cereal, or orange juice.

So don’t just think “feed them” when you donate, think “feed them well.” Donate beyond survive. Donate to thrive.