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New food donation guidelines helping fill the need for healthy food options

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Vancouver – The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and its partners are encouraging individuals and organizations in BC to remember those in need this holiday season and to donate safe, healthy food to local food banks and charities.​

To help with this effort BCCDC, in partnership with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, Food Banks BC and Metro Vancouver, has published two guideline documents to raise awareness of the problem of food insecurity in BC. 

Food insecurity occurs when people lack the ability to access nutritious, safe, and culturally appropriate food that is produced in a sustainable manner.

“The reality is that many British Columbians depend on food banks and other charitable organizations for food,” says Karen Rideout, Environmental Health Policy Analyst with BCCDC. “We developed these guidelines to help organizations provide the healthiest foods possible to people in need.” 

The guidelines also support the development of positive working relationships between food distribution organizations and donors, and encourage redistribution (instead of waste) of safe and healthy foods.

The Guidelines for Food Distribution Organizations (FDOs) with Grocery or Meal Programs provide guidance for FDOs that receive and distribute food donations to those in need. While non-perishable food items are appropriate and most commonly associated with food donations, there is a clear need for fresh vegetables, fruit, and protein. The guidelines help identify which healthy food and beverages are most in demand, depending on the FDO’s ability to transport and store them safely. These include:

  • fresh, frozen or dried fruit and vegetables
  • fresh, frozen or canned meat, poultry, fish or seafood
  • eggs
  • milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • canned vegetables or fruit, including unsweetened sauces and purees
  • whole grains (e.g. rolled oats, wild rice, quinoa)
  • noodles or pasta, especially whole grain
​Items like candy, cookies and crackers are less suitable for donation as they are considered to have low nutritional value. The guidelines also detail unacceptable food donations and damage to food packaging. Some other examples of foods that are considered the highest risk and are not acceptable for donation include unpasteurized dairy products and home-canned vegetables, meat or fish products.  

The second set of guidelines provide information for business owners, managers or other decision makers, explaining why they should consider donating food, how to start and manage a food donation program, and concerns about liability issues. The Industry Food Donation Guidelines​ were developed to help the food industry donate safe and healthy food to FDOs and how to decide which foods are suitable for donation. 

These guidelines, along with other ongoing efforts to support healthy food access and food security, can help improve the quality of foods available from FDOs so families in need of assistance can have access to healthy and nutritious foods, not just for the holidays, but throughout the year.     

The BC Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides provincial and national leadership in public health through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides both direct diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities. 

Media Contact:
Bernelle Yan
Communications Officer​
Provincial Health Services Authority
604-707-2412 or pager: 604-871-5699

BC Centre for Disease Control; healthy eating; food security; food access



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