If you opened your refrigerator or pantry door, what would you see? Do you have an abundance of food, or are you like Old Mother Hubbard with bare shelves?

Becky Reid

Reid

It is estimated that 31 percent of food is wasted at the retail and consumer levels. It might be that you purchase the family-sized salad, but then eat away from home. Some food can be frozen easily, but not all.

One way to reduce food waste is to donate safe and healthy food to community food pantries.

However, don’t donate expired, unwanted, opened and/or unhealthy options just to get rid of them. Please keep the following concepts in mind, since these organizations want to provide safe and healthy food (a.k.a. “the good stuff”).

Do NOT donate food that is past its “best by,” “use by” or “sell by” date. Baby food and baby formula never should be used past the expiration date. Food pantry volunteers must take time to sort and stock donations — it is discouraging for them to find that the food is expired!

Donate food that is in its original packaging with the label still intact. Packaging should be unopened and not damaged, due to the risk of the food becoming contaminated during repackaging or if the packaging is damaged.

Home-canned or home-processed foods should not be donated. Improperly canned foods are a potential source of botulism.

In addition, home-baked items might have a shorter shelf life than commercially prepared baked goods and present other food safety risks, so they also shouldn’t be donated.

So what is the good stuff you can donate? Use the MyPlate recommendations to donate foods that would fill a healthy and safe plate.

Examples include fruits canned in juice; low-sodium canned vegetables; healthful grains such as brown rice and whole-grain pasta; nonfat dry milk, evaporated milk or shelf-stable milk; proteins such as canned or dried beans, canned tuna, salmon or chicken; and any type of nuts.

Cash donations are very useful to food banks and food pantries, since they generally can buy food in bulk and buy the items most needed by their clients. In addition, they don’t have to utilize their volunteers for sorting and moving donated items.

We all enjoy “the good stuff.” Before you buy food, make sure it is something  you will consume in a timely manner. And if you are donating, consider how you can give your best to help others!

Source: Donating Safe and Nutritious Food to Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens Fact Sheet. Londa Nwadike, Ph.D. Kansas State University/University of Missouri Extension Food Safety Specialist

This information was provided by K-State Research and Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Specialist Becky Reid.