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Source healthy food

Once you know which healthy foods you want, start communicating with your distributors and donors. With donors, be direct about which foods are most appreciated.

What you can do today

  • Check with your local food bank to determine availability of healthy foods, and then ask how you can get these foods more often.
  • Draft a policy that addresses food selection and solicitation of donations to prioritize healthy food acquisition.
  • Put together a brochure or flyer communicating to donors which foods are most appreciated.
    • Review these handouts with tips about healthy food choices and preparation, and then choose one or two to distribute to your clients: Cooking Matters in Your Food Pantry (pp. 53-69) 
    • Survey clients about which healthy foods, especially what kind of produce, they prefer.

Tips for success

Visit your local food bank to understand its distribution process. Knowing the food bank's limitations can help you ask better questions to get the food you need.

  • Be specific when you solicit food donations. For example, ask for whole wheat pasta, low-sodium soup, frozen vegetables and so on.
  • Remember that cash donations allow you to purchase the healthy foods you may not get through other sources.

Ideas in action: Fruit and vegetable bucks

One strategy for sourcing produce is to work with your local chamber of commerce and grocery stores to implement a "Fruit and Vegetable (FV) Bucks" program. Here's the process:

  1. You distribute FV Bucks to local grocery stores to display at their registers and ask clerks to promote the bucks to shoppers.
  2. Shoppers buy FV Bucks as they check out.
  3. Grocery stores forward the proceeds to your food shelf so you can buy produce.

How Extension can help

  • Connect with a SNAP-Ed educator to help you review the food currently available at your food shelf and think through what healthy food you'd like to offer in the future: SNAP-Education (SNAP-Ed).
  • Connect with Extension Educator Jamie Bain to help you draft a policy that addresses selection of foods and donation solicitation: jbain@umn.edu or (612) 626-8762.

Find out more about promoting healthy eating at food shelves:


Sally Dover and Kelly Kunkel, Extension educators in health and nutrition

Revised 2014 by Kelly Kunkel, Extension educator in health and nutrition.

Reviewed in 2018

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