Give thanks with food and nutrition

December 11, 2012|Lynn Little

The holidays are a time for generosity and gifts of food are always welcome by those in need. These gifts can shift the focus from holiday overeating to sharing with those who may not have enough to eat. 

There are many ways to give nourishing gifts of food. There are gifts to fit every wish list and every pocketbook. There are ways to give close to home and ways to give far away. There are ways that require cash and ways that only require time and caring. Here are a few ideas for food and nutrition gifts this holiday season. 

Local charities are always in need of donations. It is important to remember local food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens with donations of money, food or time. 

There are some basic guidelines if you are donating to a food bank or creating personalized baskets for needy families: 

  •  Fruits and vegetables — Canned fruits and vegetables retain much of their nutritional value so are good choices. Include tomato sauce, canned soup and applesauce. Choose pure fruit juices. Avoid concentrates or juices with added sugar.
  •  Proteins — Peanut butter is a good source of protein and is a healthful staple in any kitchen. Canned meats and fish products provide protein as do dried, canned and baked beans along with lentils.  
  •  Grains and pasta — Whole-grain breads and bagels are a healthy choice. Look for breads, grains, crackers and bagels made from whole wheat. Choose low sugar and high-fiber hot and cold cereals. Pasta and brown rice provide the foundation for nutritious and filling meals.
  •  Household items — Include basic household supplies in your food basket. Cleaning supplies, dish soap, laundry detergent and fabric softeners can take a big bite out of a low-income budget. Add other basics including shampoo, conditioner, soap, razors and deodorant. Many food banks report diapers are also in short supply.

If your ability to give monetarily is limited, you can use your enthusiasm to motivate others to maximize their gifts. Join an existing food drive at work, or church or with a community group. Challenge your family, friends and co-workers to match your personal gifts. 

The most direct way to make a nutrition contribution is to invite someone to share food with you in your home, in their home or at a restaurant. Consider an invitation to someone who has limited income, limited mobility or limited social contacts. 

Another idea is to adopt a grandparent. Many older people live alone and their own families may be far away during the holidays. Invite an older person to lunch or visit a local nursing home to socialize with residents during their mealtimes. 

Although giving now is wonderful, need knows no season. Perhaps your most important gift can be the commitment to give throughout 2013. 

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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