World Hunger Day (28 May): best food products to donate, and to avoid

Hunger is not just about food. Hunger and poverty are inextricably linked to a range of issues including healthcare, decent work opportunities, education, social justice, women’s’ rights, the environment and global climate change.

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc all over the world. The global pandemic has seen people rush to shops to stockpile, employ rigorous hand-washing techniques, retreat indoors and distance themselves from other people in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.

But what happens to those who can’t stockpile, who don’t have water readily available, who can’t social distance and who can’t stay at home? This is a very real problem in South Africa, where poverty and unemployment are rife.

Charitable organisations are asking for food donations, but so often the request merely states “non-perishable” and we’re left wondering, just what exactly are they in need of or how can I provide the most value with my donation?

Below is a list of food items that will bring the most joy to those in need, and a few to avoid when donating food this World Hunger Day.

Food products to donate:

1. Canned beans and legumes

Legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans and butter beans are a versatile food product that can make soups, stews and even salads while providing a high protein meal. Dry bulk packaging is often cheapest, but tinned versions minimise cooking requirements as they are ready to eat, making them a great donation item for people who might lack cooking facilities, power or fuel.

2. Oatmeal

Preparing a healthy breakfast for many people can often be a challenge. Oatmeal is an affordable yet nutritious, filling meal that can be adapted with raisins, nuts, cinnamon or fruit to make a great meal, especially for children.

3. Tea and coffee

A meal is essential, but sometimes a hot beverage can do just as much to feed the soul. Often, volunteer staff don’t have tea or coffee to enjoy during their shifts, so this may help them help more fellow South Africans.

4. Milk powder or long-life milk

Not just for tea time, can help make a nutritious breakfast for youngsters and adults who may struggle with solid foods.

5. Cooking oil

An essential ingredient that is often needed, and not very often donated.

6. Tinned and dried fruit

Long-lasting fruit can make a bright and welcome dessert option, or added to oatmeal for healthy breakfast. Raisins, apricots and prunes can provide nutrients and energy and make great additions to a range of meals.

7. Peanut butter

Peanut butter is high in proteins and fats, and relatively affordable, making it a great food choice for the hungry.

8. Tinned vegetables

Sweetcorn, peas and carrots add colour, and tinned legumes such as beans and lentils add texture and important vitamins and nutrients to any meal, and the tinned versions are long-lasting with little chance of spoiling if refrigeration is not available.

9. Salt

An essential in both savoury and sweet dishes, a touch of salt can make an easy bean soup so simple rice or potato dish delicious.

10. Soup powders and stock cubes

It’s all about flavour! A simple bean, chickpea or lentil stew can taste amazing with the addition of some soup powder or vegetable stock cubes.

Products to avoid donating:

1. Any food stored in glass jars

Glass can easily be damaged in transit. For example, choose spread packaged in a plastic container rather than a glass jar.

2. Junk food

Chocolates, cooldrinks and chips are tasty and comforting but offer very little nutritious value. In fact, they can do more harm than good.

3. Meal kit boxes or baking kits

These often rely on fresh, and comparatively expensive ingredients to show them into a meal, like mincemeat, milk, eggs or butter, so if not all ingredients are available, they become unusable.

Where to donate:

During this time of national lockdown, giving to your local charity or within your local community (through neighbourhood churches, mosques, school programs, shelters or local grocery store) can bring a whole host of benefits to you and the people around you. If you want to help but don’t know where to go in your local community, you can also donate to a food-based charity. There are many around but we’ve listed some reputable options listed a few below:

*Photo by Helinton Fantin on Unsplash

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