(NPN) – At least 14 percent of U.S. households, millions of Americans, are "food insecure."
That means they don't have enough nutrition for an active, healthy lifestyle, and food banks, who try to help, need your help.
This isn't a plea for just "any old donations," it's a plea for healthy food.
Across the country, many organizations want to change the stigma that dropping off junk off and even stuff you probably wouldn't eat is not helpful.
"This is a green, which is broccoli…"
Fresh broccoli, bananas, milk and yogurt, Alice isn't shopping at a health food store. These are actually donations from her local food pantry, which she relies on to stay healthy.
"It's exactly what I need," Alice said. "Otherwise it might be difficult for me to have these things."
This is the newest trend in food pantries: shelves stocked with whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
"Filing an empty stomach with whatever food is available isn't enough," Ruthi Solari, of Super Food Drive, said.
Super Food Drive is driving a national wake-up call to people who donate to food pantries and those who rely on them.
"Many people can be overfed but undernourished," Solari said.
Some food banks are answering the call and creating healthy food shopping lists for donors, asking for nutrient-rich, non-perishable items like brown rice, whole wheat pasta, canned fish and nuts.
Some foot pantries are even getting fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers.
Experts say it makes a huge difference.
"People that depend on food donations, as long as they're healthy food, they're of course are probably going to have better health, because if they're getting whole grains they're getting more fiber they're getting fruits and vegetables they'll have more potassium in their diet so those are nutrients of concern for many Americans," dietitian Michelle Dudash said.
A recent study reveals that some food pantries are no longer "distributing…soda and candy."
One food bank pours sugary drink donations down the drain.
"We'll open up the cans dump the soda and then recycle the aluminum and we'll use that money to bring in more fresh fruits and vegetables," food bank executive director, Jennifer Gilmore, said.
How can you help? Experts say you don't have to spend a lot of money. Do what Alex Sklar and her friend do: donate what you'd feed your own family.
Just pick up an extra can or box while you grocery shop to donate.
"I'm a mom of two young boys and I know how important it is that they get good nutrition and good foods," Sklar said. "I wouldn't want other kids who may not have access to those foods to go without."
Alice, who's on a restricted diet, says she's so thankful to everyone who donated the good food she receives.
"I already notice a difference in my health due to all these good fruits vegetables that I normally wouldn't be able to afford," Alice said.
If you would like to help, just find the website for the local food pantry in your community, or give them a call and ask them about healthy donations.
If they don't have a program for healthy food yet, you may want to mention this story.
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