After every sweet-filled holiday, the Capital Area Food Bank receives heaps of donated candy and leftover baked goods from well-intentioned families and grocery stores.
But starting Sept. 1, the Washington region’s largest food bank will begin rejecting these sugary donations, saying the food does not properly nourish the low-income population it serves — a population that already experiences increased rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
“The time had come for us to follow the same journey which the rest of society has been on. Everyone is appreciating the powerful connection between food and wellness, and everyone is trying to eat better,” said Nancy Roman, the president and chief executive of the Capital Area Food Bank. “It was clear that we needed to make some changes to inventory.”
The food bank will stop accepting donations of leftover holiday candy, full-calorie sodas and bakery items (although it will still accept bread). The new policy has been long in the making, according to Roman. The center started eliminating full-calorie soda from its inventory three years ago, and two years ago, it phased out almost all sheet cakes — a baked good that retailers would donate in bulk.
Giant Food, a major donor to the food bank, will now sort out leftover holiday candy, cakes and pies and increase its protein donations.
“This can’t be a light switch,” Roman said. “Step by step, we’re improving our inventory, and we’re doing it hand in hand with retailers.”
The regional food bank says it serves 45 million pounds of food each year, one-third of which is produce. Roman said that although the new policy will lead to a decrease in the pounds of food donated, the nutrition content will be higher. The food bank is spending $80,000 more to increase the greens in its inventory and hopes other donors will follow suit.
The revamped inventory at Capital Area Food Bank won’t be completely void of sweets, though. Roman said they will still be accepting some cookies.
“We believe profoundly in the right to a treat,” she said. “But as treats have arrived in a volume that makes it challenging to provide a balanced offering of foods for the people we serve, we’ve adjusted our acceptance policy.”