Food pantries politely remind donors to keep health in mind

Food pantries politely remind donors to keep health in mind

BOSTON — It is that giving time of year and a primary beneficiary of the holiday season is your local food pantry.

“November, December everybody’s thinking about the need, so people are donating,” Interfaith Social Services Director Rick Doane said.

But donors could be, in a way, killing with their kindness.

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Doctor Deirdre Tobias is an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She says many well-meaning food pantry donations often contain ingredients that, over the long-term, can lead to chronic disease and even worse complications.

“We know that there’s a direct link between blood pressure and stroke risk, heart disease,” Tobias said. “Diabetes also puts individuals at higher risk of developing heart disease.”

The primary culprit, she says, is sodium, which can be found in just about every non-perishable food item.

“It’s an additive both for flavor and extending shelf life,” she said.

A better donation, Tobias says, is a reduced- or no-sodium canned good.

Two chicken soups -- in regular and reduced sodium -- have a per-serving difference of about 200 milligrams.

Added sugar is another issue and reading labels is key.

Unlike many food pantries, Interfaith Social Services in Quincy offers fresh produce daily and many items on the shelf are reduced sodium.

But Doane says even those clients on restricted diets have to eat something.

"We wish that we didn't have to give them stuff that's hgh in sodium but, ultimately, we want them fed so that's what we have to give them," he said.

His advice for those looking to donate to food pantries is simple.

“We hope people will ask food pantries what they would like donated,” Doane said.