Food pantry locations like Aaron Community Cultural Center have been vital during the pandemic, where economic difficulties have plagued many individuals and families. According to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, food insecurity is at an all-time high. Before the pandemic about 1 in 5 people in L.A. struggled with food insecurity, but after COVID-19 hit, an estimated 1 in 4 Angelenos now face food insecurity.
One of the major sources of food donations comes from grocery stores, who supply food items like water, canned goods, peanut butter, jelly, soups, stews and non-food items like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and grocery bags.
If you’ve ever been to a food bank location, you might have noticed food being distributed may be slightly past the expiration date. But don’t worry! This doesn’t mean the food is unsafe to eat.
According to Consumer Reports, “sell by/best by” and expiration dates are typically conservative estimates, and may not be indicative of a food’s actual freshness. Because of this, Americans end up throwing out a lot of food that is perfectly safe to consume.
Food banks/pantries are helpful in cutting down food waste and alleviating food insecurity by distributing food labelled “expired.” The great news is that although grocery stores may not be able to sell it past expiration, food banks can distribute this perfectly safe food at no cost to community members.
Some of the major exceptions to the “it’s OK to consume food after the expiration date” rule are baby food and formula, vitamins, or medicine. If you receive one of these items past expiration, they may not be safe to ingest.
While much of the food distributed at food banks may be slightly past the expiration date printed on the label, it’s still a good practice to check your food. Below are some tips for checking if your food is safe to eat.