Where once cans of Spaghetti-os, mixed fruit and green beans were prevalent, many food banks now have a very different selection of goods, including Cookie Crisp cereal, Everlasting Gobstopper jawbreakers, Mini Oreos and Wonka Donutz.
Most of the food donated to food banks comes from grocers, manufacturers and growers. Perishables are the first items to be distributed, and take more handling and faster shipment than non-perishable goods, but with the upswing in the amount of junk foods with long shelf-lives - possibly an indication of larger food trends - some food banks are trying to make changes in their programs. They want to increase the work they do with growers of fresh foods and improve their storage systems.
The shift in the types of food donated to food banks leave the administration of the banks wondering "whether they should distribute all food received, regardless of nutritional value, or only the more healthful items." This is an area of concern for many, especially considering that obesity rates tend to be higher among the low income groups that need food assistance like food banks provide and in some cases, banks are already turning down certain food items, like sodas.
The problem that arises is that at a certain point it becomes difficult for potential donors to actually donate foods and other goods. If it does, those donors could simply stop giving altogether. For most food banks, like those affiliated with America's Second Harvest, it is a balancing act that has become more necessary over time and will continue to be a challenge as they try to help those who receive supplemental food from the banks in every way they can. The men, women and children who rely on the food banks to help them eat each month also hope for the more nutritious foods but sometimes it just has to be food at all. "Put it this way," one man said, "I'm grateful for anything I can get."