Tips for Using Common Food Bank Finds

Stretching food budgets and using foods donated from food banks comes second nature to many responsible for feeding children and adults in community organizations. But even the best of us can use a creative refresher once in a while. That’s exactly how we spend one session of our Community Tables program at Food Matters Manitoba where community staff or volunteers brainstorm how to use the foods they most commonly receive at their organizations.

Community organizations aren’t the only ones who need to stretch food budgets or rely on food donations to feed themselves and their families. In Manitoba, 64,000 people receive emergency food from Manitoba Harvest every month. Emergency food is a quick fix for hunger and larger systemic solutions are needed to tackle this problem. In the meantime, families who do rely on food donations may be looking for healthy ways to use what they have in their kitchens.

Here are a few tips for using some common food bank finds:

  • Canned or dried beans can be used to bulk up dishes with ground beef, pork or bison. Simply swap half of the meat in a dish like tacos or chili with an equal amount of beans.
  • If produce has a short life left, it can often be re-purposed. Berries, bananas, stone fruits, and even heartier greens like spinach and chard, can be washed, chopped, and frozen to be used in smoothies. You won’t notice a few bruised berries once it’s all whirred up into a sweet and healthy drink.
  • Day old bread still makes great toast or can be used in a strata with eggs.
  • Even a box of KD can be upgraded for a healthier meal. Pass on the powdered cheese package and make a pasta bake – be sure to throw in some fresh or frozen veggies! Or, for a hearty lunch, throw the boxed pasta into a pot of vegetable soup.
  • Mix a can of tuna with a little mayo, celery and shredded carrot. Use as a spread on bread or crackers.

If you are feeling up for a challenge, do what we do at our brainstorming session at Community Tables. Take stock of the foods you have available – healthy and not so healthy. Then pull up your sleeves and get creative in the kitchen, making the best of what you have. Who knows, you might find a new favorite!

Submitted by Tressa Alexiuk, IPHE