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Building better food shelves

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Promoting Healthy Eating at Food Shelves

Looking to source local foods and promote healthy food access in food shelves? We have tools and strategies to help!

Browse the sections below or download the full document: Promoting Healthy Eating at Food Shelves (PDF).

Identify Healthy Food — You can find “healthy foods” in all five food groups — look for options that are lower in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.

Source Healthy Food — Once you know which healthy foods you are looking for and which foods you want to limit, start communicating with your distributors and donors.

Work with Local Growers — Local growers of all kinds can be a great source of fresh produce for food shelves, but they may not know that you accept fresh produce donations or have funds to purchase fresh produce.

Ensure Safety of Healthy Food — Monitor the safety of healthy food the same way you monitor the safety of any other food.

Store Healthy Foods Properly — Different foods have different storage requirements. Storing food in optimal conditions will preserve the flavor and quality.

Work with Limited Storage Space — Storage space is often a limiting factor for fresh food distribution, especially in smaller food shelves that have limited operating hours, low product turnover, and infrequent deliveries.

Drive Selection of Healthy Foods — For food shelves that offer a choice-based shopping experience, how you display food makes a tremendous difference in what clients choose.

Provide Practical Information — Aim to provide simple, practical information on which foods to eat and how best to prepare them.

Find Healthy Recipes — Recipes encourage clients to try new foods or to prepare familiar foods in new ways.

Enlist Volunteers' Help — Volunteers can be especially helpful in promoting the healthy foods available at the food shelf.

Include Healthy Foods in Your Backpack Program — If your food shelf supports a backpack program for children, focus on the big picture: providing the kids with nutritious, filling foods.

Do Cooking Demonstrations — Cooking demonstrations are a great way to show off easy and delicious recipes that use foods from the food shelf.

Develop a Healthy Food Policy — A healthy food policy can help your food shelf create a healthy food environment by establishing a vision and guidelines that prioritize health.

Fund Your Healthy Eating Initiatives — There are many potential options for funding projects at your food shelf.

This guide was developed in 2014 by Kelly Kunkel and Sally Dover, Extension health and nutrition educators, and Health and Nutrition's support team.

Related resources

Cooking Healthy on a Budget Videos¬†—¬†Show these short videos at your food shelf to increase awareness of common foods.

Healthy Food Shelf Transformations — This SNAP-Ed-funded project aims to transform hunger relief in Minnesota to be more healthful, equitable, and reliable.

SNAP-Education (SNAP-Ed) — Helping Minnesotans with limited financial resources make the health choice the easy choice. Connect with a SNAP-Ed educator near you.

Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) — Providing hands-on nutrition education to assist families with limited resources in the Twin Cities to make healthy food and physical activity choices.

Agency ResourcesThe Food Group — Resources developed through listening to and collaborating with agency partners.

Cooking Matters in Your Food PantryShare Our Strength's Cooking Matters® — A free guide to planning, organizing, and leading food pantry demos in your community.

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