“What’s for dinner?” Parents hear this question every day, if not 100 times a day. When the cupboards are bare and the fridge is empty, it can be a hard question to answer. Donated food can be a lifesaving benefit for families in Utah County, where 14% of the residents are living in poverty.
People around Utah Valley frequently donate food to help their friends, neighbors and families in the community. Last year, Community Action Services and Food Bank collected more than 3.5 million pounds of food. As a result, families can visit Community Action Services and Food Bank to get food and other resources to support them in times of need. Here’s what people should know about giving and receiving food.
Where do my food donations go?
You’ve sent cereal boxes and macaroni and cheese with your kids to their school food drive, or maybe you dropped off a load of canned goods to the food pantry. Doing so, you might wonder what will become of all that food.
Rest assured, it’s not going to sit in that donation bin for long. It will soon be on its way to a variety of locations to help people in need. Much of the food will go right to our food pantries in Provo, Springville, Heber City and Coalville. There, people can “shop” for the items they need to feed their family.
The donations also make their way to community partners around Utah to ensure they get to people who need them most. Juice boxes, dried fruit and microwavable macaroni and cheese might become part of a Kid Nutrition Pak that can be distributed to kids at schools around the valley. Other canned goods, baking items, and other necessities might go to senior centers for elderly individuals on a fixed income. We also provide necessities to dozens of community partners in the area, including Centro Hispano, House of Hope, Alpine House and others.
What kind of food should I donate?
It’s not always easy to know just what to donate from your pantry. The best rule of thumb is to donate food and essentials that your own family would need. While canned green beans and ramen noodles are easy to come by and less expensive, they aren’t always as palatable or healthy as other options. Some great shelf-stable options include rice, beans, pasta, and canned fruits and vegetables. Spices are also very useful to help make meals more flavorful.
You don’t have to stick to shelf-stable items, either. Fresh food is always a welcome donation: If your garden is producing more tomatoes than you could ever eat or your zucchini has taken over the yard, bring some of the excess to the food bank. To see some of our most-needed items, visit https://bit.ly/3tFumN6.
Can I donate/eat expired food?
YES! Don’t be put off by food that is past its expiration date. A lot of shelf-stable food can be eaten several years after the date. We accept canned food up to four years past its date.
Regardless of the age of the food, only donate food in good condition. Do not donate food that has been damaged or opened or that is bulging or spoiling.
If you have received food from the food pantry that is already expired, don’t throw it away. Expired food can often be safely prepared for your family. Dates on food labels can have different meanings, and pantry items can still be safe and taste good for some time. To learn more about individual foods, consult the USDA’s FoodKeeper app to see how long foods can be stored and safely eaten.
How can I donate food?
Donating food to Community Action Services and Food Bank couldn’t be easier. There are a variety of donation opportunities to fit every schedule and budget. Here are some ideas.
- Food Drop-Off: You can bring food by our warehouse, located at 815 S. Freedom Blvd., Ste. 100, in Provo, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday. Your donation will be weighed, and you will get a receipt from an employee. If you have shelf-stable foods to donate, you can swing by any time that works for you. If you need to come after hours, just drop the food into the chute outside the warehouse doors.
- Food Drive: If you want to get your friends, neighbors, coworkers or church group in on the action, you can host a food drive to collect even more food. We’re happy to help make your drive a success, whether you need some social media promotion, collection bins or other assistance.
- Donate Money: A few donated dollars can go a long way. Just $1 can actually feed a family of four for an entire day. Community Action Services is able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods through our community partners and grocery rescue program. So even a small monetary contribution will make a big difference and can help fill the gaps with foods that aren’t donated as often.
If you want to bless other families with donated food, or your family needs help getting enough nutritious food, visit Community Action Services and Food Bank. We strive to help all families have enough healthy food and resources to lift them out of poverty.
Karen McCandless is the CEO of Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. CASFB is located at 815 S. Freedom Blvd., Ste. 100. For more information on educational programs, how to make donations, upcoming classes, food drives and more, visit communityactionuc.org or call 801-373-8200.