Food pantries cannot receive expired food

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Boxes of expired and opened food that, by law, cannot be distributed, sit at the Salvation Army waiting to be thrown out.

HANCOCK — Local food pantries are receiving large amounts of donated food items that have expired, or have been opened and partially consumed, items that because they are either old or opened, cannot by law be distributed. Captain Leonita Schweigert of the Salvation Army and Tom Vichich of the St. Vincent de Paul’s food pantry both said they see too much expired food.

“We’ve been seeing that for years at our food pantry,” Vichich said. “It’s an on-going problem.”

Rather than aiding a charity by donating expired or opened food, people are actually increasing operating costs because the food that cannot be distributed must be thrown out, and there are fees associated with trash removal. The money spent on removing the trash could be spent to purchase food.

“We had a pig farmer that we could give expired food items to,” Schweigert said, “and he would feed the stuff to his pigs, but he doesn’t have pigs anymore, so now we’re trying to find somebody with pigs, so we don’t have to pay the cost of having this stuff removed.”

Schweigert said she is debating changing the way food drives are conducted to avoid the problem. In the future, she said, the Salvation Army may place bins in the entry ways of grocery stores to conduct food drives. Those wishing to donate can purchase a can of soup, or a box of noodles, or whatever they would like to donate, and drop it off as they are leaving the store.

“The oldest item I have seen come in this year,” Schweigert said, “expired in 1976. It had expired 41 years ago.”

Before donating food, people should check the expiration dates on cans and packages to ensure the products are still safe to distribute and eat. If the item or product is not something the donor would eat or feed to family members, it should, instead, be thrown out.