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For The Next Food Drive, Go For The Canned Tuna, Not The Saltines

For The Next Food Drive Go For The Canned Tuna Not The Saltines The Salt NPR


When you donate to a food drive, do you ponder the nutritional labels of the can in your hand? Or do you grab a packet of ramen or a bag of marshmallows from the dark corners of your pantry and hope it hasn't expired?

Healthfulness isn't typically a well-intended food donor's top concern, says hunger advocate Ruthi Solari. The ramen and marshmallows, along with a container of Crisco and a few other items, were basically the entire contents of a food box delivered to one of her volunteer's grandmothers who received food aid, Solari says.

"What would she even make with this?" she notes.


Many of these people are also struggling with diet-related diseases like diabetes. So in recent years, hunger-relief groups have been putting an increasing emphasis on healthful eating, says Gilmore, who worked with Solari to revamp her organization's nutritional policies. That involved changing not only the types of foods that pantries solicited from donors, Gilmore says, but also educating volunteers and staffers about healthier cooking, so they can pass that knowledge on to the people they serve.

"It's one thing to distribute brown rice and quinoa and bok choy," says Gilmore. "It's a whole other thing to get families to taste it and cook it and eat it at home." Her group now hands out recipes with food boxes.

The goal, says Solari, is to make healthful eating approachable and "really debunking the idea that it's an elitist thing."

"It's not enough to fill empty stomachs," she says. "The opposite of being hungry isn't being full – it's being healthy."

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