Keep It Healthy When You Donate Food

Are you one of those people who’s always searching for more hours in the day? No matter how packed your schedule is, you can still find time to make a difference in your community. One easy, quick way to get involved is to donate food to a local food bank (use VolunteerMatch’s organization search engine to find one in your area). It doesn’t take much effort to simply go through your pantry or head to the grocery store and pick up a few nonperishable items. Anything you give to the food bank could be a lifesaver to someone else.

Many food banks have a list of the most valuable nonperishable items — the ones that would make the most difference. Typically these lists include soups, canned fruits or vegetables, canned beans, canned meat, and packaged meat. Although any donation is a wonderful effort, some food banks are starting to challenge their communities to think about the food they are giving. Many soups and packaged meats contain high amounts of sodium. The American Heart Association warns that too much sodium can cause your body to retain water, which puts extra stress on your heart and blood vessels. People who receive food from a food pantry may not have any other options and could therefore end up consuming food that isn’t the best for them or their health condition.

When you decide to donate food, consider a few things to ensure you are providing others with healthy choices. Always read nutrition labels so you can analyze the daily values and know what ingredients each food contains. Look at each food’s sugar content. Juice is one of the worst culprits in this regard, so try to buy 100 percent fruit juice, which is naturally sweet without any added sugar. Also, as mentioned above, keep the food’s sodium level in mind. For example, ramen noodles contain a large percentage of an average person’s daily sodium requirement. Know that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive: Check out the selection at wholesale retailers and discount grocery stores, and use coupons to ensure the best deal.

Even if you are always busy, it doesn’t take much time to donate food. When you’re moving through the grocery store aisles with an eye toward picking up food for donations, just take a little extra time to read the labels. This tiny extra effort will help you find affordable food items that not only will be a huge help to someone in need, but will provide them with a good, healthy meal.

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