Is Outdated Food Dangerous?

Contributed by Eddie Ezelle, MatSu Food Bank

Several folks have mentioned lately of becoming aware through our educational promotions that the “sell by date, use by date” and even the manufactured dates on a can of food does not mean the food inside is bad. 

It is a very confusing thing and some states do not require any type of labeling. The federal government is looking into standardizing the labeling and making it easier to read and understand. Some manufacturers do have codes, but you need a play book to figure it out!

At the MatSu Food Bank, we always welcome  any food. Anything you would eat, so would someone else. We occasionally get something from another country that we cannot read, but someone always comes in that knows what it is and are generally excited to receive it.

Staff and volunteers are trained in what to look for and decide if we can put it on the shelves. The rule is always, “If in doubt, throw it out.” (Excluding that use by date!)

It is estimated that we Americans waste, throw out or otherwise dispose of up to 40% of what food is produced. People have been brainwashed into thinking if the apple has a blemish, if the banana has spots its bad throw it out. There are too many things wrong with this. Think about that for a moment. 

We can and should address these problems. If we had the resources to store and distribute this amount of waste, we could feed the world and no one would be hungry and I would be out of a job, and that is not a bad trade for me!

The reality however, is 1 in 5 children nationwide are food insecure. That means they do not know when their next meal will be or where it will come from. And this is in America, one of the richest most vibrant nations in the world.

It is a troubling thing.

So you say, “Where do I come in? What can I do? It is so overwhelming that I can’t do anything.” The best answer I can give is: Start local and do what you can. Every can of food or dollar donated or hour volunteered, chips away at the scourge of food insecurity that we face.

I’ve always said start local. Start with helping your neighbor; then the block, city, borough and onward. Find a pantry or food bank doing the things you would like to see and donate! Volunteer time or help create a food drive with your neighbors, all can help even indirectly.

On a side note:

I like to talk to young children about the importance of helping others and giving back. If we start with the children, maybe future generations will be the ones who solve the problem. Rotary a few years ago, took up the cause to eradicate polio and are now within a few cases of creating a polio free world.

We could do the same for hunger. 

It takes a village to raise a child, but only one to feed them. Could that be you?  

Thanks for reading.