The Heart of Illinois Food Pantry Network is encouraging healthy donations during its 12 Days of Giving campaign in December.
Kaitlyn Streitmatter is the SNAP educator for the University of Illinois Extension, serving Peoria, Tazewell, Mason and Fulton counties.
"We have highlighted some healthier food options that are still traditional holiday foods to be donated at the food pantry," she said. "And these are also foods or times that food pantries have said that they are in need of most."
Requested items include staples like canned veggies and fruits, peanut butter, spices, and whole-grain cereal that can be mixed and matched to make holiday favorites.
"You think of green-bean casserole," Streitmatter said. "That's why we said low-sodium cream soup, maybe paired with low-sodium green beans. That would be a healthier version of green-bean casserole."
Streitmatter said people experiencing food insecurity also have higher rates of health problems like diabetes and heart disease. And a study by Feeding America found two-thirds of families visiting food pantries face a difficult choice between seeking medical treatment or purchasing food.
"We're trying to help the food pantry guests to actually receive some healthier items to actually help them with those chronic health problems, as well as the food insecurity issue," she said.
Items requested starting Dec. 1 include:
- Day 1: Low-sodium canned veggies
- Day 2: Canned fruit in 100% juice
- Day 3: Low-sodium canned ham
- Day 4: Boxed stuffing
- Day 5: Boxed potatoes
- Day 6: Wheat crackers
- Day 7: Low-sodium creamed soup
- Day 8: Canned yam or sweet potatoes
- Day 9: Peanut butter
- Day 10: Whole grain cereal
- Day 11: Spices-- cinnamon, pepper, powders (garlic, onion, chili)
- Day 12: Warm weather attire--new hats, new gloves, handwarmers
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