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Think before you donate.

Hunger is rampant in this country, with one in seven Americans having to rely on food pantries and soup kitchens to survive. To feed this massive population of nearly 46 million people, these organizations rely almost entirely on donations.

That's where the rest of us come into the picture. Typically, we offload into food drives the dusty cans from the back of our kitchen cabinets. We use food drives as a kind of dumping ground for the items we won't eat, rather than truly considering how to nourish our fellow citizens.

Too often, the food we donate is full of fat, salt and sugar. People in need will take what they can get from the agencies that receive and distribute food drive donations. But people who are food insecure are already prone to having poor diets, since grocery stores are not readily accessible in many low-income communities. Even when they are, fresh produce is beyond their means.

For this reason, our nation's poor tend to consume readily available convenience-store and fast-food fare, placing them at risk for obesity and weakened brain function, as well as debilitating and costly diseases.

As the holiday season nears, schools, community organizations and faith groups begin their plans for annual food drives. In our experience, serving as directors on the board of Heaven on Earth NOW, a national nonprofit based in Colorado, we have found it is easy to transform these collections into healthy food drives.

The food we donate doesn't have to be more expensive since in most cases the healthy versions of non-perishables are the same price as the less healthy ones.

For example, a can of tuna in water is the same price and far healthier than a can of tuna in oil. The same is true when you swap out sugary cereals for whole grains, white rice for brown, and granola bars for cookies.

With some simple adjustments to the way we give, we can turn food drives into true acts of generosity that provide real benefits to their recipients and to society at large. Next time you're asked to contribute to a food drive, think before you donate. Every person deserves healthy food.


Dean Cottrill and Patty Kallmyer of Baltimore, Md., are directors on the board of the nonprofit Heaven on Earth NOW, which works to feed and house people in need.

Editorial on 09/20/2018

Print Headline: Healthy food drives


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Archived Comments

  • 0boxerssuddenlinknet
    September 20, 2018 at 8:34 p.m.

    Instead of donating canned food items maybe we should teach people how to cook. a bag of great northern beans is cheap compared to fast food. a couple bunches of turnip greens easy to cook and will last several meals. same with the beans.both are high in nutrients and cost effective. plus will help keep medical expense down.