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You can make a big difference this holiday season, donate healthy food

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As we head into the holiday season more people will donate food to charities. Saint Joseph’s Mercy Health Center wants to get the word out that these charitable individuals should double check what they are giving and go for nutritious options. It’ll make a difference in many lives.

This new goal comes from St. Joseph’s grassroots program “Join Me,” which is dedicated to health and wellness.  At one of the town hall lunches across the state they had conducted to discuss the difficulties people have in healthy living, one of the involved pointed out the issue of those who rely on food banks.

“Access to healthy food is a key component to good health,” said Rob Casalou, regional president and CEO, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. “As a Catholic health system serving southeast Michigan, it’s our mission to help those in need and improve the health of our community.  A big thank you goes to everyone who so generously donates food to their local food drive. Remember, giving food is good; giving healthy food is even better.”

The issue of hunger is hardly new to this group.  It has a long history with The Food Bank Council of Michigan, which controls all the major food banks and pantries in Michigan.  From that relationship they got the word out to not only banks and pantries, but also to anyone who is holding a food drive, that nutrition should be emphasized.

This information gets through packets sent out to potential donor.  The packets include a list of the choices that can do the most good for those in the most need. The word is also spread through fliers and on the websites of the food banks, pantries, and those who hold the food drives.

Another big player in this is the Michigan Harvest Gathering campaign, now in its 25th year and another longtime ally of St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center.  Aside from this participation in word spreading, the charity also donates food from its “Farm At St. Joe’s” on the St. Joseph’s Mercy’s Ann Arbor campus

“With more than 1.7 million people in Michigan relying on food banks—many of them children and the elderly who are at greater risk for health issues — providing nutritious foods could really improve the health of our state,” said Dr. Phillip Knight, executive director, Food Bank Council of Michigan. “Michigan food banks are committed to the nutrition of the clients we serve. Receiving donations of healthy food honors our work, and the dignity of those we serve.”

If you’re donating here are the best choices for food donations that have strong nutritional value:

  • Baby food and baby formula
  • Canned beans: Kidney, navy, pinto, black, chickpeas, pork & beans, refried
  • Low- or no-added salt or sugar canned fruit or vegetables
  • Cereal, no added sugar
  • Fruit juice, 100% real juice (canned or boxed)
  • Instant oats
  • Turkey or beef jerky
  • Boxed meals: Complete dinners such as complete dinners, helper & pasta meals with lower sodium, healthy fats and higher protein
  • Canned meats and fish such as beef stew, chili, hash, salmon, tuna
  • Oil, vegetable or olive (bottled)
  • Pasta, legumes, lentils, quinoa, millet, (100% whole grain preferred)
  • Peanut butter, nut butters (all natural variety)
  • Instant potatoes
  • Protein bars (at least 6 grams of protein per bar)
  • Rice: Brown, wild
  • Snack Items: 100% whole fruit snacks, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, granola, popcorn
  • Soup, canned and boxed: low- or no added salt
  • Staples: flour, spices
  • Tomato products: Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste
  • Whole grain crackers and rice cakes
  • 100% whole grain breads

If fresh food is accepted:

  • Dairy, including low fat or fat-free, vitamin D fortified milk, yogurt, cottage cheese
  • Fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs
  • Lean meats including chicken, turkey, red meat such as sirloin, tenderloin, round, chuck 90% or higher ground beef; limit/avoid additives and preservatives

“This message to consider healthy foods when donating sprang from St Joe’s ongoing Join Me campaign– an effort to get our entire region to a healthier place,” said Health Reporter Lila Lazarus, partner in St. Joe’s Join Me campaign. “The hope is we can fight hunger, while still promoting health.”

With the large number of food deserts in Southeast Michigan, this is may be the best way for many people to have a truly nourishing meal.

To learn more about St. Joe’s Join Me initiative, please visit http://www.stjoeshealth.org/joinme.

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