Shop healthy when donating to food pantries - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Shop healthy when donating to food pantries

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CARBONDALE -- A group of researchers from SIU, U of I Extension, and the Jackson County Health Department teamed up to learn about what kind of donations come in to local food pantries. 
To get the data, they followed our WSIL Sack Hunger campaign back in the fall. News Three found out how you can help when donating food items.
On average, a thousand non-perishable items were donated at each sack hunger game. More than 70 percent of the donations, were canned goods and most of them were soups and vegetables high in sodium. 
"According to feeding America, about 58 percent of folks nationwide who use food pantries, they have high blood pressure," said Dawn Null, SIU Assistant Professor in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. 
Studies show that families who use food pantries, are not meeting their dietary needs. That's why Null is on a mission to help change that.
"One of the things folks can do is purchase foods that are "no salt added" or "low sodium" and these foods are typically the same price as their full sodium counterpart," said Null. 
Michelle McLernon with the Jackson County Healthy Department says simple changes like that can make a big difference in the lives of low income families. 
"If they don't eat well, they suffer from obesity, heart conditions, diabetes," said McLernon. 
Null said some of the best items to donate are canned meats, beans, whole grain cereals and pastas and shelf stable milk. 
"If they are eating healthy foods from the food pantries, then it can also set their child up for healthier behaviors throughout their lifetime, which can then also reduce their risk for chronic disease later," said Null. 
Null also suggests calling food pantries before donating to see what they need.

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