Food pantries encourage healthy and safe food donations for holidays

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Food pantries are looking to fill their shelves and helps families in need over the holidays, but donors may want to think twice before giving away food.

Food educators from the University of Illinois extension say the most important rule to follow for making a donation is to "only donate the food you would serve your family."

"It is tempting to clean out the pantry and donate food that has been in there for a while," said SNAP Ed educator Carol Erickson. "No matter what your income is, everyone wants safe and healthy food."

Erickson recommends checking the expiration dates of shelf stable foods like cereal, mixes, peanut butter, and canned fruits and vegetables. While these foods are safe to eat after the date, the quality and flavor may decrease.

Food pantries also suggests throwing away food in cans or boxes that may be damaged due to contamination risks.

Donors may want to consider giving healthy food to people in need of nutrients. Pantries are looking for reduced sugar options and salt options to meet dietary needs.

Pantries recommend donating several foods listed below:

FRUIT: unsweetened applesauce, canned fruit in water/light syrup/100% juice, dried fruit, fruit pouches, and 100% fruit juice.

VEGETABLES: 100 percent vegetable juice, low-sodium canned soups, no-added/low/reduced sodium canned vegetables and spaghetti sauce, dried or dehydrated vegetables.

GRAINS: cereal and oatmeal with three grams of fiber, whole grain bread, pasta, and tortillas, barley, cornmeal, brown and instant rice, whole grain crackers, whole grain flour, corn tortillas.

PROTEIN low-sodium canned beans, dried beans/peas/lentils, unsalted or lightly nuts, canned tuna/salmon/chicken in water, nut butters like peanut, almond, or cashew with less than 230 mg sodium and four grams of sugar/serving.

DAIRY: shelf-stable milk, soy/almond/rice milk, powdered milk, baby formula.