- Low sodium cans of beans – These are wonderful for shelters and pantries. They can be eaten without cooking (for clients that are perhaps homeless or don’t have a stove), contain lots of protein and fiber, and are significantly lower in sodium than traditional varieties. Most low sodium varieties are priced the same as (or comparable to) regular varieties, and typically run just $0.50 to $1 each.
- Brown rice – This whole grain staple provides lots of energy and is a good source of fiber and several vitamins/minerals. Boxes typically cost $1-$2 each.
- Low sodium cans of vegetables – While canned vegetables typically run higher in sodium than fresh or frozen options, they can last a lot longer on a shelf at the pantry – and purchasing lower sodium varieties ensures a nutritional profile closer to fresh/frozen options. Vegetables contain many vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that people’s diets may fall short of.
- Healthy cereals – Check cereals for these three characteristics: it’s made from a whole grain, it contains six or less grams of sugar, and it contains two or more grams of fiber. If it meets all three criteria, it’s a great choice to donate.
- Peanut butter – A $3 jar of peanut butter can go a long way for someone whose hungry (particularly when combined with a loaf of whole wheat bread). Peanut butter has protein and healthy fats that can help people feel full longer.
- Canned tuna fish – This inexpensive choice (typically only $1 per can) provides lots of protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids that support heart and cognitive health.
- Powdered milk – This self-stable variety of milk provides calcium and Vitamin D, nutrients that many Americans don’t get enough of in their diet.
- Produce – **Not all pantries or shelters accept fresh produce, but some do.** Check before you buy any fresh produce to donate, as you wouldn’t want it to go to waste if it’s not accepted. If there’s a great sale on some fresh items at the supermarket and your pantry accepts produce, go ahead and grab a few extra for them! Winter squash like butternut, acorn, or buttercup squash are great options as they last for several weeks and often go on sale for as little as 40-80 cents per pound.
Remember, any donation is appreciated by organizations that accept them – but we hope this list helps you choose some healthier options this season!
Will you be donating food this Thanksgiving season? Share with us in the comments!