Many people incorrectly think the dates on food packaging signal the last day it is safe to eat, the food bank said. Instead, they are often decided by the food companies to signal the optimal freshness of a product. Canned goods can last for years, and unopened dry goods like cereal and pasta are usually still good well past the date on the box.
Here are some common labels you often see and what they mean:
- “Best By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a safety date.
- “Sell By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management.
- “Use By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula or medications.
Residents can donate food by dropping it off at a local pantry (a full list and map of the food bank’s partners is available online at acfb.org) or at the food bank’s headquarters in East Point, where a drive-in donation area is set up to reduce contact. Waide said the best foods to donate are nonperishable, rather than refrigerated or frozen foods. Avoid bringing cans or boxes that have been dented or damaged.
Long lines at food drives have become a common sight during the pandemic.
Credit: Hyosub Shin
Credit: Hyosub Shin
Some of the most needed food at Atlanta Community Food Bank, which services 29 counties in metro Atlanta and North Georgia, are whole grain foods like oatmeal and pasta, shelf-stable milk, high protein foods such as dried beans, canned tuna and natural peanut butter, and vegetables with low sodium and no added salt.
Since the pandemic began, the food bank and local pantries have seen an alarming increase in the number of people in need of food, many attending food drives for the first time. Waide said the food bank increased its food distribution by 54% from April to July, compared to the same four months last year, giving out 36 million pounds of food.
“In many communities, the demand is going to continue to be overwhelming,” he said.