Local food pantries - like many national ones - are making sure families have some healthy options for food this holiday season.
Park Terrace Elementary School in Gloversville houses the school district's food pantry. Principal Stephen Pavone said the pantry serves 25 to 30 families a week, and people are asked to come every other week if possible so the district can keep up with the demand.
"We do have more first-time [food pantry users] coming this year," he said.
Janice Blodgett, family and community educator for the Gloversville Enlarged School District elementary schools, shows a can of chicken at the district’s food pantry at Park?Terrace Elementary?School on Wednesday.
The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor
While any donation someone can make to the food pantry is appreciated, Pavone said, healthy donations are excellent for recipients. Items such as peanut butter, rice, canned tunafish and oatmeal are solid staples that can go a long way in feeding many families, he said.
Such staples are important because, given the rising cost of groceries, he said, a dollar does not buy as much food as it used to.
Janice Blodgett, family and community educator for the Gloversville Enlarged School District elementary schools, said the pantry can provide visitors with recipes so they can turn healthy ingredients into a tasty meal. In turn, that can allow people to stretch their food budget as much as possible.
"We have lots of folks who are looking to be healthy," she said. "They love it."
Blodgett said while children can be picky eaters, persistence is a key to getting them to eat healthier foods. Cutting some stuff out and adding healthier items, little by little, can make a difference.
For example, she recommends slipping a few veggies under the layer of cheese on a homemade pizza.
"They'll never know," she said with a laugh.
Denis Wilson, executive director of Fulmont Community Action Agency, said every family or individual that stops by its food pantries always gets fruits, vegetables and meat. After those staples are set, the recipients get other items such as canned soups, he said.
The agency's food pantry in Gloversville, at 53 Church St., serves about 25 families or individuals a week. Its pantry in Northville, at 202 N. Third St., serves five or more families or people a week.
While the donated foods are non-perishable items, Wilson said, the agency can use monetary donations to go out and by things like meat.
Pavone said items also are purchased for the school district food pantry.
He noted the pantry also got an assist from the school's garden. Students and teachers were able to learn about plants and grow items for the food pantry, including swiss chard, garlic onions and potatoes.
Ella M.?Congdon, the coordinator of the food pantry at St. James Lutheran?Church at 501 N.?Main?St. in Gloversville, said some of the elderly people the pantry helps have health concerns regarding the amount of sugar they can safely consume.
Rather than just hand people a bag of groceries, she said, the visitors to the food pantry can come in and take 15 items off the shelves, so they can keep track of nutritional quality of the items they are getting.
So what foods are healthy, in demand and inexpensive enough not to bust donors' budgets? Nationally, food bank operators recommend nonperishables such as:
If possible, donors should avoid:
For a list of local food pantries, visit the website of N.Y. Connects at nyconnects.fcofa.org/directory/food/food.html
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.