Skip to Main Content

Food Banks Increasing Focus on Nutrition, Survey Finds

Posted Apr 11th, 2017 in Health, Recipes

Food Banks Increasing Focus on Nutrition, Survey Finds

Recipes banner vegetables connecting niagara logo

Top Niagara chef, dietitian contribute to healthy meals cookbook in support of food banks

Food banks across Canada, including Project SHARE in Niagara, have increased their focus on nutrition over the last five years, from offering healthier food options to educating users on how to get the biggest health benefit from the foods they consume.

That’s the finding of a recent survey that polled 15 organizations representing 251 food banks from coast to coast. The study found that all food banks regard nutritional consideration as important when serving their clients, with 47 per cent of food banks citing it as “very important” and 53 per cent viewing it as “extremely important.” Ninety-three per cent of food banks reported increasing their focus on nutrition over the last five years.

Conducted on behalf of Catelli Foods, the study found that even in locations where food donations were up, demand often exceeded supply (see survey highlights, below) – a reality that has contributed to food banks’ increased focus on health by doing the most they can with less.
“Our food bank has engaged a wellness educator who is there to teach people how to cook healthy recipes with a variety of ingredients found in our food room, and they have the opportunity to sample the recipes on site,” said Diane Corkum, Executive Director of Project SHARE, which participated in the survey. “When people taste how delicious healthy recipes can be, they’re more likely to make them for themselves at home.”
Respondents indicated that nutritional education is important for food donors as well as clients. For example, while all food banks surveyed ranked snack foods as one of their least preferred donation items, 58 per cent of them found snack foods to be either their most donated or second-most donated item.

In an effort to boost the educational efforts of food banks nationally, 15 of Canada’s top chefs and dietitians – including Chris Smythe, Executive Chef of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Jodi Robinson, leading Niagara-based dietitian – have come together to create nutritious and budget-friendly recipes compiled in a cookbook called Out of the Box: Healthy Family Pasta Meals on a Budget.

The cookbook is being launched as part of a campaign called Help us Feed the Hope, an initiative by Catelli Foods in support of Canada’s food banks. For every share or download of the cookbook and its recipes, Catelli Foods will donate servings of pasta to food banks across the country, with the goal of donating a total of one million servings. Complete with top food picks and health tips from the dietitians, the cookbook – which features recipes that can be made for a maximum of $15 for a family of four – is available for download free-of-charge at

For every box of Catelli® pasta purchased until the end of May at Sobeys and Metro stores, Catelli Foods will also donate a serving of pasta to food banks across the country.
"Eating a healthy diet that tastes great is possible on any budget,” said Robinson, explaining that a nutritious diet is the cornerstone to optimal health and prevention of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
“The cookbook is brimming with nutritious and delicious recipes that not only fit all tastes, but are budget-friendly,” said Robinson, whose top ingredient picks corn, black beans and cheddar cheese are incorporated into a Tex-Mex fusilli recipe created by Chef Smythe.

In addition to Chef Smythe, other leading chefs featured in the cookbook include John Morris, Executive Chef, 360 Restaurant, CN Tower in Toronto; David Omar, Executive Chef, Zinc Restaurant, Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton; Kenton Leier, Executive Chef, The Westin Ottawa; Leo Pantel, Executive Chef, Conexus Arts Centre in Regina; Cameron Ballendine, Executive Chef, Fairmont Vancouver; and Matt Mackenzie, Executive Chef of Crowne Plaza Fredericton.

Along with its donation to Canada’s food banks, Catelli Foods is also sponsoring a contest for a chance to win one of five prizes of a year’s supply of pasta. Visit  to participate.

Health tips from the dietitians:

  • Team up and cook as a family. When we cook together, everyone benefits from a healthy meal, a sense of shared accomplishment and the enjoyment of quality time.
  • Put nutritious food choices at the front of the fridge. Keep cut up vegetables, fruit, hardboiled eggs or nut butters handy, so that the healthy choice is the easy choice.
  • Taste the rainbow. Fill your diet with an array of colours by choosing a variety of different fruits and vegetables to provide an assortment of nutrients and health benefits.
  • Use herbs and spices. They have positive effects on the body. Ginger and turmeric, for example, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • Cover half of your plate with vegetables at lunch and dinner. Use frozen and canned options when fresh local vegetables aren’t in season.

Top nutritious, budget-friendly food picks:

  • Grains (pasta, farro)
  • Beans (kidney, white, black)
  • Lentils, chickpeas
  • Spinach, kale, broccoli
  • Pumpkin or squash purée
  • Fish (fresh or canned)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Onions, leeks
  • Red pepper, carrots, beets
  • Chicken, tofu

Survey highlights:

  • 33% of food banks surveyed saw an increase of more than 20% in food bank usage over the last five years, while 27% saw a 5-10% increase over the same period.
  • 27% of those polled said they had an increase of more than 20% in food donations over the last five years, while 20% said they saw a decrease (from 20% to less than 5%) in food donations during the same period.
  • 53% of food bank respondents find nutritional consideration when stocking bins to be extremely important and the remaining 47% find it to be very important.
  • 93% of food banks polled said they have increased their focus on nutrition within the last five years.
  • Regarding the frequency items donated, 23% of respondents gave pasta and pasta sauce a ranking of 1 (most donated) and 38% gave them a ranking of 2, while 33% gave snack food a ranking of 1 (most donated) and 25% gave it a ranking of 2.
  • Of the respondents who ranked pasta and pasta sauce between 1 and 5 as a most or least preferred donation item, 40% gave them a ranking of 1 (most preferred) and 36% gave them a ranking of 2.
  • Of the respondents who ranked snack foods between 1 and 5 as a most or least preferred donation item, 38% gave snack foods a ranking of 4 and 62% gave them a ranking of 5 (least preferred).
  • In the past year, 33% of respondents have given food bank users less food due to shortages and 27% have run out of certain foods.

Oven-Baked Tex Mex Fusilli Pasta

By Chef Chris Smythe

tex mex fusulli chris smythe niagara-on-the-lake chef

Top three ingredient picks from Niagara dietitian Jodi Robinson: Corn, black beans and cheddar cheese

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 40 min
Servings: 8


  • 1 pkg. (375 g) Catelli Smart® Fusilli
  • 1/2 tsp (1.25 g) fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 lb (450 g) chicken breast, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 cup (175 g) fresh corn kernels, off the cob
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup (200 g) tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup (200 g) canned black beans
  • 3 cups (750 ml) tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp (2.5 g) chili powder
  • 1 tbsp (10 g) smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 g) old cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup (250 ml) sour cream

Garnish: Chopped cilantro


Step 1: Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Step 2: Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and let cool.

Step 3: Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from pan and set aside.

Step 4: In the saucepan, heat remaining olive oil and add onion, corn and green pepper. Cook until soft, approximately 5 minutes.

Step 5: Add the chicken, diced tomatoes, black beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, paprika and red wine vinegar. Cook through for five minutes. Remove from heat.

Step 6: Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix in sea salt. Transfer to a large casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese over the pasta and bake in oven for 25 minutes uncovered or until heated through.

Step 7: Top pasta with a spoonful of sour cream and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Tip: Canned corn can be used in place of fresh corn.

This message could be about your business. Ask us.

  • Thanks Debi. I follow Connecting Niagara on Twitter and Facebook as well. It's nice to have a site that promotes local events and organizations. We appreciate the support and promotion of our event.
    ~ Dan M.


Powered by PRowl Communications

9053215097 Contact