Keeping Perishable Foods Safe for Food Bank Clients

  • Article
  • January 26, 2016

The refrigerator is a humble piece of kitchen equipment. We hardly give it a second thought as we reach for milk to put in our morning cereal or dig in the back of the fridge for a wayward cup of yogurt. That is, of course, until it doesn’t work. We know the price we pay when our refrigeration fails us: food spoils, quality suffers and money is wasted. For food banks, refrigeration and keeping perishable foods cold is essential to increasing access to fresh, nutritious foods for thousands of food insecure families.

Sadly, refrigeration can be a challenge for food banks and pantries, since refrigerators can be costly to purchase, run and maintain. For small pantries in particular, this becomes a huge barrier to offering nutritious perishable foods like milk, yogurt and cheese, even if those items become available. The logistics of keeping foods cold during travel can also be problematic for agencies as they often rely on volunteers driving non-refrigerated vehicles to and from the food bank.

Last year, National Dairy Council helped the New Hampshire (NH) Food Bank, the only food bank in New Hampshire, side-step this barrier with a $10,000 grant. The NH Food Bank, located in Manchester, has plenty of cold storage on site, but its member pantries vary in size and capacity for perishable products and are located minutes to several hours away.

The NH Food Bank came up with a simple but effective solution to help agencies keep foods cold during transportation: purchasing freezer blankets to use for transporting food. This simple solution has greatly improved the amount of food agencies can bring back from the food bank and other closer “fresh rescue” donations of foods close to their sell-by date. These improvements ensure more fresh foods, like milk, yogurt and cheese get to local families in need.

Additionally, three lucky agencies (one each in Franconia, Hudson and Manchester) benefited from the purchase of refrigerated coolers. These pantries were previously unable to accept perishable food donations because they had no way to store those foods safely. Now these pantries can ensure nutrient-dense, perishable foods like milk, yogurt and cheese remain fresh for their clients.

Connie Miville and Rick Carter, Agency Relationship managers at NH Food Bank, talk regularly with member agencies and are thrilled with the increased capacity agencies have to offer dairy foods. “Not only are our agencies empowered to follow healthy food handling guidelines that we provide them in training, they are able to better take advantage of great options like yogurt, cheese and dairy to keep their clients eating healthy.”

Check out other ways food banks are leading the fight against hunger, keeping up with the demand for healthy, fresh foods for families in need, and how you can help by visiting Feeding America’s site at