6 best foods to donate to food banks

food banks

(BPT) – Donating to local food banks is one way to ensure that everyone in your community feels the warmth this winter. With this mission in mind, Dole Packaged Foods launched its “Let Sunshine In, Drive Hunger Out” hunger relief campaign, in partnership with Kroger and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips. You can participate by adding a few much-needed supplies to your shopping cart and contributing to your local food bank.

Here are six most needed food categories to donate to your community food bank:

1. Fruits and vegetables. The most needed item in food banks is fruit. Additionally, both fruit and vegetables contain essential vitamins and fiber everyone needs. Choose non-perishable items in unbreakable containers. Pop-top or easy-to-open packaging is a plus, as not everyone has can openers. In addition to its well-known choices like canned pineapple chunks, Dole offers jarred fruit such as sliced peaches and mandarin oranges in easy-to-open plastic jars. Dole Fruit Bowls or Organics come in small packages great for kids’ lunches.

2. Baby food. Canned infant formula and boxed baby cereals are essential for families with infants. Choose products that are not in breakable glass containers, as most food banks cannot accept them.

3. Beans and peas. Canned or dried beans and peas have a long shelf life, and they are very versatile for a wide range of recipes. They’re also packed with vital nutrition, containing lots of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are rich in antioxidants.

4. Protein. Canned meat or chicken can be used in many different kinds of recipes, and canned fish such as tuna or salmon is extremely nutritious, containing calcium, vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids. Additionally, products like peanut butter and nuts such as almonds are easy to store and are a good source of fiber and protein.

5. Soups and stews. Choose varieties with less sodium for the best nutritional value, and opt for cans that are easy to open. Many options today contain organic ingredients and a wide variety of flavors for easy-to-fix meals any family can use, whether served alone or in combination with pasta or rice.

6. Seasonings. This may not immediately come to mind, so food banks can always use more. Cooking delicious meals relies on ingredients like oil, vinegar, spices and dried herbs. Olive and canola oils are healthy and often come in plastic containers. Pick up a few extra flavorings that you might typically use for cooking a tasty meal, including salt, pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, cinnamon or garlic powder.

As part of Dole’s commitment to hunger relief, Chef Jamie Gwen created delicious recipes made mostly from ingredients commonly donated to food banks. Here’s one that’s easy to make as well as chock full of nutrition:

Spicy Mandarin Orange 4 Bean Salad

1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) green beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans (11 or 15 ounces each) Dole Mandarin Oranges, drained
1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced
1 to 2 small jalapeno peppers, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Stir together kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, green beans, mandarin oranges, celery and jalapenos in large bowl. Whisk together vinegar, oil and sugar until sugar is dissolved, in small bowl. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Pour dressing over bean mixture; toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate at least 1 to 2 hours before serving.

To further inspire people to Let Sunshine In, Drive Hunger Out, Dole is participating in this year’s Rose Parade for its ninth year in a row. Dole’s “Rhythm of Paradise” float pays homage to Dole’s Hawaiian heritage while also honoring the company’s commitment to hunger relief and the local California community.

Join Dole Packaged Foods and give back to your local community.