Boy and Cub Scouts across the nation will be collecting canned and non-perishable food items to donate to their local food banks over the next several weeks.  Scouts in Toledo, Ohio, will kick off a month-long food drive tomorrow, while scouts in Corpus Christi, Texas will kick off a week-long food drive on Halloween.   

Boy and Cub Scouts are not the only Americans making efforts on behalf of food banks.  Earlier this month U.S. Senate included an $11 million increase in funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) in the Fiscal Year 2010 Agriculture, Rural Development, and FDA Appropriations Conference Report.  

CSFP provides commodity foods, such as infant formula and cereal, non-fat dry and evaporated milk, canned meat or poultry or tuna, and canned fruits and vegetables to state agencies that store the food and distribute it to public and private non-profit local agencies, which determine the eligibility of applicants, distribute the food, and provide nutrition education.

The two Colorado Senators issued a joint comment on the increase in funding.  Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) commented, “The number of families and seniors turning to food banks for help has risen sharply. This increased assistance will help ensure children and seniors, who have been hurt the hardest during this recession, have enough to eat.”

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) added, “Colorado families are finding it difficult to make ends meet in this economy, and as a result, our food banks are finding themselves stretched thin.  This increase in funding will help keep our food banks stocked, our kids and seniors fed, and our family farms and ranches afloat as they weather this economic storm.”

In July, Feeding America reported that food banks and pantries have seen a 30 percent increase in demand for emergency food assistance; some food banks estimated a 65 percent increase in need.  Unemployment and rising food prices are cited as two contributing factors.

If the Scouts deliver food-collection bags to your neighborhood and

you’re planning to give, there are a few guidelines you should keep

in mind when considering which items to donate.

Canned meat and poultry will keep at best quality 2-5 years if the can

remains in good condition and has been stored properly. Tomato

products, pineapple, and other high-acid foods will keep at best

quality for about 18 months.  Can linings could corrode or discolor if

the metal reacts with high-acid foods.

Canned food should be stored in a cool, clean, dry place.  Never store

canned goods above the stove, under the sink, in a damp garage or

basement, or any place exposed to low or high temperature extremes.  

If your canned food has exceeded the recommended dating or has been

stored in an unsuitable place, throw it out.  Don’t donate it.

Never donate or use food from containers that exhibit signs of possible

Clostridium botulinum contamination.  Clostridium botulinum produces

the botulism toxin, which when consumed – even in miniscule amounts –

can cause serious illness or death.  Possible “botulism” indicators for

canned foods include leaking, bulging, or large dents.  

Food banks ask you to carefully consider what is in your donation bag,

as they are looking for foods high in nutritional density. 

Shelf-stable products you are donating should be low in saturated fats

and refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour).