Sharon McDonald | Penn State Extension
With Covid-19 mitigation guidance still in place, there is no doubt the holiday season will be very different this year! One concern for many will be food for the holidays. Because of Covid-19 there are many more food insecure families in our area relying on food from food banks/pantries to meet their needs. A food bank, according to Feeding America, is a non-profit that safely stores large quantities of food that will be delivered to local programs. Depending on size, it may also directly distribute food to individuals and families. A food pantry serves as a distribution center for families and individuals to receive food.
In Centre County we have a number of food banks and food pantries serving clients of all ages and backgrounds. In addition, many churches distribute food to families in need and many organizations hold food drives to collect supplies during the holidays. As you consider donations this year keep a few things in mind. While food banks and pantries gladly accept food items, you may want to consider a cash donation. This enables them to purchase items they may be specifically low on and often they can purchase larger quantities at lower prices. Check with your local pantry or visit their website to see if they have a list of needed items and purposefully purchase these products. Do not donate items with expired best by or use by dates. While these are generally dates indicating optimum quality of the food and not safety, most food banks/pantries have policies in place not to accept these items and will end up throwing them out. Most people think only of donating dry goods but check to see if they will accept perishable and frozen items as well. In addition to food, many pantries also collect and distribute non-food items such as soap, toothpaste, detergent, and the like.
Penn State Extension will be offering a free webinar November 23rd and December 7th titled “Food Safety for Donated Foods.” If you volunteer for a food bank/pantry or are interested in learning more about the safety of donated food items you can register at https://extension.psu.edu/food-safety-for-donated-foods or call 1-877-345-0691.
Penn State Extension Nutrition Links program offers nutrition and food resource management education to families with children through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program as well as the SNAP-Ed program. For more information or to see if you qualify, contact Nutrition Education Adviser Leoni Georgiou at the Centre County Extension Office 814-355-4897.