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Healthy choices make best food donations


Kathy Kolasa


Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Q We are planning to raise 2,621 pounds of food for the Vidant Health Medical Food Pantry during the month of March. Can you share with your readers the types of foods and beverages that are healthy donations? — The Brody Service-Learning Scholars, Greenville

A I am excited to hear about the interest our health care professionals, medical, dietetic and other ECU students have in helping people in our community get access to enough healthy food to heal their bodies and stay healthy. The medical students and the Food and Nutrition Department at Vidant Medical Center are conducting a food drive during March, which is National Nutrition Month.

Jessica Russell, an ECU dietetic student, compiled this information about donating to food drives.

Although most individuals who use a local food pantry are from a lower-income household, there are times any of us could have limited access to healthy food. Those going to the Medical Food Pantry on the Vidant-Brody campus will have answered “yes” to the screening questions: In the past 12 months, was there any day when you or anyone in your family went hungry because you did not have enough money for food? In the past 12 months did the food that you bought not last and did you not have money to get more?

Researchers at Iowa State University found that, while they were grateful for food donations, most individuals using a food pantry felt they did not always get healthy foods and couldn’t make a balanced diet from the foods they received. If you think of “food as medicine,” it’s particularly important for people leaving the hospital or their doctor’s office with a condition like diabetes or congestive heart failure to have foods that help the healing process.

When deciding what to give, be aware of what the food pantry is able to accept based on its facilities. At this time, the Brody students and Vidant Medical Center are collecting non-perishable items. Consider giving canned vegetables like green beans, corn, carrots, mixed vegetables, collard greens, other canned greens, tomatoes, mushrooms and pumpkin — if possible without added salt, seasonings, fat or sugar.

Vegetables and fruit should make up half the healing plate. They provide micronutrients and are filling. Canned tomatoes provide many vitamins such as A, C and E along with other micronutrients. There are many nutritious dishes that can be made with tomatoes such as pasta, chilis and soups.

Canned fruits offer fiber, antioxidants and nutrients that are important in the healing process. Peaches, pineapple, fruit cocktail and applesauce are just a few of the canned fruit options available in local supermarkets. Canned or dried fruits are popular with kids for on-the-go snacks and lunches. Read the ingredient list to make sure there isn’t added sugar or fat.

Canned or packaged protein foods, such as canned tuna, chicken or salmon, are good options, as are plant-based proteins like beans, lentils and nuts. These foods also provide fiber that is great for people with diabetes and heart disease. If you give peanut butter, try to give a brand that has no added sugar.

Whole grains are a great source of fiber and micronutrients. Donating whole grains helps provide food pantry clients a better option than white, refined-grain products. Cereals with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, wheat noodles or pasta, whole-grain crackers, brown rice, plain oatmeal and grits, tortillas, quinoa, corn bread mix, mashed potato flakes and popcorn are great options to donate. There are some non-perishable dairy products such as instant dry milk powder and sugar-free pudding cups or mixes.

If the pantry you support can manage fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, then those items are great choices.

The Brody Service-Learning Scholars are collecting items throughout every department within the school of medicine. There will be general collection boxes available at the front foyer of the Brody School of Medicine and the ECU Family Medicine Center lobby where employees and visitors may contribute. Groups, clubs, businesses and other organizations may contact the Service-Learning Scholars at bsomservicelearning@ecu.edu to arrange to have donations picked up.

The food drive is in support of Brody faculty member Dr. Kori Brewer, who will run the Boston Marathon in April. That’s the reason for the 2,621 pounds — 100 pounds for every mile. This year’s Boston Marathon will celebrate a Year of Service, honoring service to country, mission and community. Anyone who collects food for the drive is encouraged to take a picture and post it on social media with #PassTheBaton and #GreenvilleNCMarathonfooddrive to show support for Brewer’s run and the commitment Pitt County has to combating food insecurity.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.