Food Pantry Dilemma

Here’s some Thanksgiving food for thought.

A local business is holding a Thanksgiving food drive and collecting non-perishable food items from employees. To inspire a little friendly competition, the employees have been divided into teams, which get a point for each item brought in. Here’s the conundrum – to “win” the competition, it makes more sense for teams to buy the least expensive items they can. If I have $200 to spend and I go to the grocery and see things like 10 for $10 packages of instant noodles, I can get a lot of those but admittedly borderline nutritional value.

My advice to the shoppers was to look, where possible, for the healthier option. I recommended lower sodium canned goods, which actually seemed to be about equivalent in price. I also recommended granola bars, cereal bars, instant oatmeal (with lower sugar options if available). Whole wheat pastas were a lot more expensive than their traditional flour counterparts.

I also tried to think about ways to encourage healthier purchases. For example, maybe each item could be given a score (or utilizeĀ some of the scoring systems out there, like NuVal) and the team with the healthier scores would get more points. Or points subtracted for junk food.

Anyone have ideas about trying to incorporateĀ healthier items into food drives? Is this even a realistic goal? Does it matter? Do you think food drives should have guidelines?

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One response to “Food Pantry Dilemma

  1. There is a food drive in my area that has very specific guidelines. It is heartbreaking that such a food drive is even necessary – it is for school children who do not have anything to eat on the weekends. They get breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria on school days, and it was discovered that those were the only meals many children were eating. Now they are identified and sent home with a backpack full of specific items on the weekend. The list for donations is so exact that I assume a dietician helped with the planning. Nothing that requires refrigeration or heating or a can opener. It is about two dozen items (such as one fruit cup, 8 oz. of peanut butter, two cereal bars, one fruity snack, one chocolate milk box – things a child would want to eat, but also as balanced as possible).

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