Cornell Cooperative initiative seeks to keep junk food out of food pantries

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Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County is leading an initiative to improve the nutritional content of food collection and donation programs, and is offering to help organizations hosting food drives improve the healthfulness of their collections.

CCE-Oneida is the lead county organization of North Country Eat Smart New York, which helps organize food drives while promoting donations that follow My Plate and federal dietary guidelines to increase access to healthful food for low-income people. Highly processed convenience foods, like those frequently found in emergency food boxes, are often loaded with calories and stripped of nutrients. Encouraging the public to donate foods of greater nutritional value can help improve access to and consumption of high quality foods for those in need.

Using marketing materials developed through East Smart New York, CCE-Oneida recently helped the Thea Bowman Food Pantry in Utica nearly double healthful food donations compared to past food drives. Of 62 pounds of food collected, 60 to 70 percent was from healthful items.

Suggested items include 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, raisins and other dried fruit, applesauce, fruit cups, canned fruit, salsa, canned vegetables and soups, tomato sauce, quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats, whole-grain pasta, tuna and chicken canned in water, dried beans, unsalted nuts, peanut butter and evaporated, powdered or soy milk.

Organizations hosting a food drive may partner with North Country ESNY to make it a healthy drive through Nourish Your Neighbor. For more information, contact April Lynne Bennett at 315-788-8450 or aln48@cornell.edu.

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