It's funny that I can't seem to get away from it. Most of our food donors so far are giving us bread, pastries, cookies, and cupcakes. What is it about this stuff? Well, it goes stale quickly, so bakers are constantly replacing products with fresh items. Part of what makes all those goodies so expensive is the large shrink rate, i.e., the percentage that gets thrown away. We're delighted to keep it all out of the trash and pass it on to people who don't get treats like that very often, but we sure hope we can get some nutritious food donations as well.
The foods most needed are, of course, the ones that just don't get donated -- meats, dairy, and fresh produce. I know this food is out there and getting thrown away. I just have to educate store managers. Dairy products are not spoiled when they reach their sell-by date. In fact, they're usually good for at least another week. Yogurt, cheese, and eggs stay safe and delicious for several weeks. Produce loses nothing by being a little limp or over-ripe. It's just harder to sell. Meat freezes so well, it can be received a couple of days after its sell-by date and cooked weeks or months later, when the need is greatest. Or cooked right away and frozen for later use.
Ground meat is really the only fresh food you want to use by the date stamped on it -- every bit of it has been exposed to air, and air contains bacteria, which will start to grow even under refrigeration. Whole roasts or birds can be skinned, trimmed, and washed to get bacteria off the surfaces and keep the meat safe, but you can't wash ground meat.
There's your food storage lesson for today. With our access to refrigerators and freezers, we can properly handle any food donation and keep it safe. We just have to convince the sellers to send it our way. If you can help spread the word, please do. Every day that goes buy means thousands of tons of food going into dumpsters, and people still going hungry. We will turn this around. We must.