Best Before Date - © sustainableamerica.org

Food Bank Happy To Take ‘Old Food’

A Winnipeg Food Bank has made news with its assertion that, just because food has passed its best before date, doesn’t mean it’s not safe to eat. We’ve heard that before, but it bears repeating. And Winnipeg Harvest’s ‘old food’ policies are helping to feed thousands…

Winnipeg Harvest - © Global NewsVolunteers inspect canned goods at
the Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank.

It’s a sensible approach to food evaluation, and one that’s often misinterpreted by consumers. As we’ve explained in the past, ‘Best Before’ means just that – not that it’s unsafe to eat after that.

“Really, it can be up to 12 to 24 months, and sometimes even longer,” Winnipeg Harvest (WH) Executive Director Keren Taylor-Hughes told CTV Winnipeg. “We do follow all those items so we do not have any food that we think is not suitable for ourselves to eat and that’s what we use and it actually goes a long way here.”

And Taylor-Hughes stresses that she and per people are following official Canada’s Food Guide recommendations when evaluating post-Best Before food: “However, when this date has passed, the food may lose some of its freshness and flavour, or its texture may have changed. Some of its nutritional value may be lost. For example, vitamin C content in juice.”

Some caveats…

The main criterion for rejecting old food is whether it’s still factory-sealed or has been opened. Only sealed containers are accepted by WH. After that, trained volunteers inspect each item for leaks or container damage.

Still, the vast majority of old food items donated to WH are judged ‘good’ for distribution to the needy.

A big operation…

Winnipeg Harvest collected an estimated 12 million pounds / 5.5 million kg of food donations and feeds an estimated 64,000 people every month. That kind of volume keeps the organization’s 200 volunteers very busy…

My take…

So, when you come across an old can of Baked Beans or an unopened packet of Pasta in the back of your pantry, don’t just throw it way. Chances are, your local food bank can use it. Somebody who needs it gets a meal, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you did good. Maybe, the ultimate ‘win-win’ deal?

~ Maggie J.

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