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.
Tips for Checking to See If Your Food is Safe to Eat
Eggs - Place an egg in water and see if it sinks or floats. If your egg sinks, it’s good to eat. If it floats, it means it’s time to throw it out.
Canned Foods - According to Everyday Health, acidic canned foods like tomatoes and fruits are usually safe for up to 18 months. Canned veggies and meats can usually last two to five years.
Bread - If you find that your bread has any spots of mold on it, it’s time to throw it out. If your bread is stale but isn’t moldy, try rescuing it by using it in recipes like french toast or home-made croutons!
Milk/Other Dairy Products- If it’s chunky, pitch it. Other good measures are if it tastes sour or smells sour.
If you or someone you know is in need of food during the pandemic, please come to ACCC. We have weekly food giveaways on Tuesdays from 10-11 am. Sign up in advance here.
Unsplash photo via Joel Muniz