Guide to Healthy Food Donations

Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.

The winter holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for food banks, and nonprofits are feeling the pinch of rising food prices even as demand soars. A 2020 survey by consumer reports found that 1 in 5 American shoppers visited a food pantry, food bank, or community distribution center.

If you’d like to help this holiday season, consider donating a non-electric can opener (a practical, often-overlooked item) along with any of the following nutritious, nonperishable food items.

Healthy Foods to Donate:

  • Spices (black pepper, cayenne pepper, etc.) and dried herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano, etc.)
  • Low-sodium canned beans (such as black, kidney, cannellini), black-eyed or chickpeas
  • Oatmeal (old-fashioned rolled oats), brown rice, & quinoa
  • Pasta: whole grain, lentil, chickpea
  • Low-sodium spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, and low-sodium soups/stews.
  • Peanut or almond butter
  • Whole wheat crackers and tortillas
  • Granola bars (low-sugar KIND, nature valley simple nut, & and nature valley protein bars)
  • Unsweetened applesauce cups and canned fruit in 100% juice or water
  • Canned meat (tuna, salmon, & chicken)
  • Low-sodium chicken and vegetable broth
  • Low-fat powdered milk and shelf-stable unsweetened almond milk
  • Olive oil, canola oil, & cooking spray

Tips for Donating:

  • No glass
  • Avoid jumbo-sized products
  • Check the expiration date and do not donate expired items
  • If possible, call your local food bank and ask if there are any specific items they need

In 2021, 53 million people turned to food banks and community programs for help putting food on the table. To learn more about the impact of hunger in your community and find resources to help, visit

If you’d like to donate to the YMCA’s annual Thanksgiving food drive, you can bring items Nov 1-15th to the Pabst Farms or Watertown branch. 

About Sara Dow

Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.  

In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University.  I am excited to share with you what I am learning. 


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