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Thanksgiving leftovers can feed the hungry

Your Thanksgiving leftovers can make a difference in the lives of those who are hungry.

Some five million tons of food will be wasted between Thanksgiving and the end of 2013, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In the United States, roughly one-third of food is thrown away as a result of overbuying and misinterpretation of expiration and sell-by dates.

Representatives from a number of nonprofit agencies in the Miami Valley say they can make immediate use of food items ranging from a can of pumpkin or leftover turkey to a bag of apples.

“We have so many generous donors who take care of us on Thanksgiving Day that the real need is on the days following and in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said David Bohardt, executive director St. Vincent de Paul.

Melodie Bennett, director of the House of Bread — the Dayton community kitchen that serves a hot nutritious lunchtime meal 365 days each year — said many of us are fortunate enough to have the resources to purchase more than we’re actually going to need. “Many of our guests do not have the resources to consume anything, so those who are able to share unopened and unused food can really benefit those in our community without those resources.”

It’s important to know specifically what kinds of leftovers are accepted at each of the facilities.

Bohardt said the Gateway Shelter for Women and Families, for example, can make use of anything that’s edible.

“The best thing to do with leftovers is to wrap them up securely, put them in plastic containers and put a tag on them that identifies the content,” he suggests. “It also makes sense to separate food groups — if there’s a lot of leftover turkey, for example, we will take it anyway we can get it, but it makes it more difficult to serve if it’s in a container with the mashed potatoes and the cranberry sauce.”

Another reason that foods need to be separated, Bohardt said, is that some have a longer shelf life, others can be frozen and used in the future.

Bennett said House of Bread can use any type of breads or desserts that haven’t been opened including those that have been home-baked. She does not want partially- used items such as a leftover casserole.

“Whole fruit would be fabulous, particularly oranges, bananas, grapefruits,” Bennett said. “They should drop it off as soon as possible in a container that they don’t want back. Please don’t bring us your Pyrex with your name on it, we don’t have time to deal with that.”

In addition to food items, Bennett said the House of Bread would appreciate donations of gloves, scarves, outerwear, hats and blankets.

“If someone is shopping in the next few days and sees a bargain on these items, we can really use them,” she adds.

The Foodbank’s CEO Michelle Riley said her organization can make use of non-perishable items that have not been opened, such as powdered milk, potatoes, peanut butter and jellied cranberries. The facility is open today but not over the weekend.

According to Riley, 85 food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and homeless shelters feed 127,000 hungry people every year, 38,000 of those individuals are children.

Leftovers can make a difference.

Said Bohardt: “Any donation of food is not only appreciated but no matter how small or large we will put it to good use.”

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