Donating Food This Season? Don't Make This Common Mistake

Because everyone deserves wholesome food.

'Tis the season to dash out for last-minute fixings for your Christmas feast — and for many, it's also an opportunity to get in the holiday spirit and donate food to those less fortunate.

Most grocery stores make donating a no-brainer by placing bins right at the door to collect canned goods and other non-perishables that will go out to some of the 48.1 million Americans who are food insecure (meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from). But here's the problem: Most of what's being dropped off might be doing more harm than good.

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That's because people are more likely to donate highly processed foods (we're looking at you, ramen noodles) than healthy items. And while these foods may fill you up, they aren't nourishing and could lead to health issues later in life.

"After the recession, we noticed that while the lines at food pantries were becoming longer, the rate of obesity and type 2 diabetes was going up," says Cindy Knapp, associate director of SuperFood Drive, a non-profit that's working to provide wholesome food for people in need. "The same people who are struggling to put dinner on the table are also battling conditions related to unhealthy diets, but smarter donations can help change that."

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So What Are the Best Foods to Donate?

This year, make a healthy difference in others' lives by giving nutrient-rich foods (a good rule of thumb: If you wouldn't want to feed it to your family, don't drop it in the donation box). Start with these nutritious non-perishables:

  • Whole grain pastas and cereals
  • Rolled oats
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Nuts (like almonds and walnuts)
  • Canned beans and lentils
  • Low-sodium broth
  • Fruit canned in 100% fruit juice
  • Canned tuna, chicken, or salmon
  • Non-hydrogenated nut butters
  • Dried fruit
  • Canned pumpkin or yams
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