A quick guide to food product dating

By Rosemena Dalmace, Summer Community Nutrition Educator

When grocery shopping, have you ever noticed the dates that are stamped on the package of foods you purchase? Beside the date, it usually says, “sell by,” “best if used by,” or “use by or before.” Most people believe that these dates are expiration dates and the food is no longer good to eat after the date has passed. This is not the case!

Perishable foods like meats, poultry and fish usually have sell by dates. The sell by date tells the store up to what date a food item can remain on the shelf to be sold. Also, perishable foods can last longer if they are kept in the refrigerator at or below 40 degrees F, or frozen at or below 0 degrees F.

Non-perishable foods like canned or boxed foods usually have “use by” or “best if used by dates.” These dates describe that the food is at its best quality or flavor up until the date printed on the package.

Rule of thumb for purchasing and storing foods is as follows:

  • If the package says, “sell by” or if it has no date, then the product can be stored for a few days past the stamped date. When frozen the food can last weeks beyond its date and is safe. However when refrigerated, some foods are safe between 1 and 7 days.
  • If the package says, “use by” or “best if used by” then you should to follow that date.

Here at the Food Bank we store a large variety of foods in our warehouse. Some foods come in past their dates, however, we follow shelf-stable food safety guidelines.

Here are some examples of foods we store and for how long


  • Rice (white, brown), pasta/noodles, macaroni and cheese, and popcorn = 2 years
  • Cornmeal/corn meal baking mixes, polenta = 6 – 12 months
  • Crackers = 8 months
  • Stuffing = 2 months


  • Canned potatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, beans, beets, peas and pumpkin = 2 – 5 years
  • Tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut, or foods treated with vinegar based sauces = 12 – 18 months
  • Vegetable juice: 12 – 18 months
  • Dehydrated, Dried Vegetables = 1 year


  • Canned fruit (in juice or light syrup) = 12 – 18 months
  • Dried fruits = 6 months
  • 100% Fruit Juice = 12 – 18 months


  • Dry milk packets = 6 months
  • Canned evaporated or condensed = 9 months
  • Parmesan Cheese = 10 months


  • Canned beans, peas, lentils = 2 – 5 years
  • Dry beans, peas, lentils 12 months
  • Peanut butter = 6 – 9 months
  • Nuts (canned, shelled) = 4 months
  • Canned meat and poultry = 2 – 5 years
  • Seafood in retort pouches (tuna, salmon0 = 8 months
  • Meat substitutes = 4 months
  • Dried beef = 12 months

The Food Bank takes care in making sure that the foods given to the community are healthy and at its best quality.

Be sure to use the food safety guidelines when preparing and storing cooked and uncooked foods. Dates on products are important especially for perishable items. Handling food is also very important. Always begin with clean hands and utensils when preparing and storing cooked and uncooked foods.

Here’s a handy infographic to help determine shelf life!


Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition

Summer meals at Delaware libraries

0815_SelbyvillewebBy Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Libraries offer more than books: they are community centers.

Four libraries in southern Sussex County offered Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP) through the Food Bank of Delaware for the first time this summer. One in New Castle County participated in the program.

Meals distributed through the program are kid-friendly and nutritionally balanced.

Sussex County libraries in Delmar, Seaford, Frankford and Selbyville opened their doors at lunch time to offer free meals to children up to age 18. While some served lunch five days a week, others were limited by space and volunteer hands to serve the kids once or twice a week.

No pre-registration was required, so at most sites neighborhood children simply walked to their local library.

Selbyville’s library is housed in a historic home in the heart of town. It’s easily accessible to neighborhood children, so the SFSP has been quite successful.

“There is a need, for sure,” said Kelly Kline, library director. “We serve a number of big families. We try to keep a home-like atmosphere.”

Kids ate lunch in a craft room area adjacent to the children’s library, and then most stuck around to use the computers or play with Legos.

“We stack programs around the meals. The kids are walking. Their parents are working, and they may not have air conditioning. Why not have something for them to do?” she said.

In Delmar, Jessica Webb, the library director, offered lunches on Monday and Wednesday from a downtown site across from the fire company. Although the building will be renovated and the library officially moved to temporary facilities on U.S. 13, Webb thought the walker-accessible location would better serve the kids’ needs.

Like most sites, Webb planned activities to coincide with the meals. After lunch was served, children were offered a story-time followed by an opportunity to play with Legos until 2 p.m.

And while no registration was necessary, Webb and other library directors found attendance was quite unpredictable. Delmar, for example, served 55 children one week and only a handful later in the summer.

IMG_1316web“The kids really enjoyed it,” she said.

Laura Prophet, a children’s librarian at the Seaford Library, shared similar experiences. She, too, planned activities, including movies, around the meals, and she relied on volunteers to help serve children lunch each Monday.

The challenge, she admitted, was serving as many as 40 children and as few as three.

“I definitely want to participate next year,” said Frankford Library director Rachel Wackett. “We were very pleased. It’s a good thing for the community.”

She too paired the lunches with an activity, an opportunity for free play. Next summer, she may offer a program.

“There are so many benefits to this we didn’t expect,” she added.

Libraries interested in participating in next year’s Summer Meal Program should contact Tyler Yoder at tyoder@fbd.org. For more information about the Food Bank of Delaware, visit http://www.fbd.org.

Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Nutrition, Programs

A look back on my summer internship

By Chris Willis, Communications Intern

As school approaches for me, I would like to say a few words on my time as an intern here at the Food Bank of Delaware. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to return to a place that is close in my heart. The Food Bank has always been a place of positivity for me ever since I began my first day volunteering many years ago. From that day I’ve gone on to make great friends, win an award and share the importance of volunteering.

This summer I was able to serve as a Communications Intern under Kim Turner, the Communications Director. She showed me the daily procedures of her position and helped me develop and polish good communication skills. We also went on trips to different places like Calvary Church in Dover and New Knollwood in Claymont. I was able to take pictures and talk to the different people about their relation with the Food Bank.

Once in the office I wrote four blogs – two about volunteers and two about culinary students. I have interviewed people before but did not actually write the final story. This was new for me, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was fun to get to know people and share their stories. I also practiced writing press releases, doing clerical tasks, creating content for Twitter and other things.

The experience this summer was very fun for me. I was able to learn from a great teacher, and she pushed to be independent with my work. I’m happy that it was everything I expected and more. I thank everyone I crossed paths with during the summer for making it the great time it was. To anyone that is looking to volunteer or intern during the summer, the Food Bank of Delaware is always a top choice.

Leave a comment

Filed under FBD Staff, Volunteer

Growing fresh foods with the New Castle County Master Gardeners

New Castle County Master Gardeners have been working hard all summer tending to their demonstration garden outside the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension office in Newark.

Produce grown in the garden is donated to the Food Bank and Little Sisters of the Poor. Last year, the group donated close to 900 pounds!

Master Gardener Rick Judd leads the group of dedicated volunteers who spend time weeding, watering, pruning, harvesting and more to make sure the demonstration garden is in tip-top shape. The garden serves three purposes – teaches the community best practices for vegetable and fruit gardening, shows how easy it is to compost and provides an opportunity for Master Gardeners to donate fresh foods to Delawareans in need.

The 288-square-foot garden has produced more than 300 pounds of food for the Food Bank so far this year. Rick says the gardeners are now harvesting some of their heaviest crops including sweet potatoes, squash and cantaloupe. Cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh herbs are also growing in abundance.

The demonstration garden also features unique ways to grow fruits and vegetables, especially if space is limited. Squash and cantaloupe are grown vertically on a trellis, beans and Swiss chard are grown in plastic containers traditionally used for storage and raised beds are home to healthy beets.

While Labor Day is just around the corner, growing will continue through the chilly fall months at the demonstration garden.

“This is a great month to get your fall crops in,” advises Rick. “Some you can sew in directly. I would actually start raising [seeds] under the lights. Now is a good time to start planting seeds such as broccoli, kale and cauliflower. Start them inside under the light about six weeks before you want to put them out. As they mature, they prefer the cooler weather of the fall.”

For those who are new to gardening, Rick says three ingredients are needed – sun, soil and water!

To learn more about the Master Gardeners in New Castle County, please click here.

Check out some photos of the demonstration garden!

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Supporters

Join us for Dinner in the Orchard on September 3

Charlie Smith and Dave MarvelThe quiet, secluded, pastoral setting of an old-fashioned orchard sets the stage for Dinner in the Orchard, a benefit for the Food Bank of Delaware.

The event, open to the public, is planned from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3 at T.S. Smith & Sons in Bridgeville.

Ticket holders will enjoy farm-fresh foods from Sussex County farms prepared by students from The Culinary School at the Food Bank’s Milford Branch, craft beer from Mispillion River Brewing Company, fine wines, live entertainment007 from the Swing Noteables and carriage rides through the farm courtesy of Circle C Outfit.

The evening opens with appetizers, including gazpacho topped with Old Bay shrimp, fried eggplant with honey, prosciutto pinwheels and more. The entrees include fried chicken, grilled steak, poached salmon with watercress and peaches and black bean tacos with guacamole. There will be an abundance of side dishes, such as potato and zucchini hash, bourbon bacon slaw, corn and tomato salad, and fusilli with broccoli, red beans and roasted tomatoes.

068No dining experience is complete without dessert, and the Food Bank’s Executive Chef Instructor Tim Hunter and the students will prepare blackberry cantaloupe salad and watermelon salad.

Tickets are just $30 per person. For more information, call 302-444-8074 or visit www.fbd.org/orcharddinner.

Thank you, sponsors:

Chesapeake Utilities Corporation
Circle C Outfit
Insight Homes
T.S. Smith & Sons

Tri Gas & Oil Co., Inc.

Del-One Federal Credit Union
Sussex County Association of Realtors
Trinity Foundation
Zitvogel Farms

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Volunteer Spotlight: Paul B.

DSC_0610By Chris Willis, Communications Intern

There are many reasons why people give back to the community, and there are many worthy causes right here in the First State. Paul B. gives back to the community by volunteering at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Newark facility. He has volunteered at the Food Bank for the past three years and has grown to enjoy it more by the years.

“It’s like a job, because I love coming in,” he says. This mission of the Food Bank has become near and dear to his heart. The people who work here  are pleasant and inspiring, he points out. This has led to his desire to volunteer for the longterm. He believes that if everyone comes in and does their part, hunger in Delaware can be overcome.

A dedicated employee at Chrysler for 30 years, Paul doesn’t like to sit around now that he’s retired. He would rather volunteer  at the Food Bank and other places as there’s always something to do. He feels that he can make an impact by volunteering his time. “I don’t want to be selfish, I would rather help out as much as I can,” says Paul.

He also calls out to other fellow retirees or anyone that has extra time on their hands.. Paul advises, “If they can do the work, it will make things easier as projects must keep going on,” referring to programs like the Summer Nutrition Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. For those unable to volunteer, he encourages individuals to help in other ways such as donating food or funds.

Paul believes that every bit of help the community can provide will make a different to benefit those in need.He tips his hat to all the people who give to the Food Bank. Paul is just one of many dedicated volunteers who walk through the doors to give a day of hard work.

Want to make a difference in our community? Visit http://fbd.volunteerhub.com/events/index to sign up to volunteer!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Stretching SNAP budgets at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market

0805_lewes-photoBy Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator 

SNAP recipients have an opportunity to make their shopping dollars go farther at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market.

SNAP is the program formerly called food stamps, so people using an EBT card can have access to more fresh produce, dairy, baked goods, and meat sold at that market through an agreement promoted by the Food Bank of Delaware.

Here’s how it works: Anyone with an EBT card can go to the SNAP Information Table set up at the market each Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon through Nov. 21. The Market will match, dollar for dollar, purchases made at the market with bonus bucks’ tokens.

Those tokens, up to $20 per person per visit, can be used to buy SNAP-eligible food at the Market; they do not expire.

Mary Conte, the Market’s SNAP coordinator, partnered with Crystal Ruiz, a SNAP Outreach Coordinator for the Food Bank of Delaware, to develop the Bonus Bucks concept in order to allow more people access to fresh foods.

“We wanted to team up with a market,” said Crystal, who noted that grant funding will pay for a Wi-Fi connection so people can even sign up for SNAP benefits at the market.

Mary admits that the program has not been as well received as she envisioned, and she has volunteered her time and effort to promote it.

“I put myself out there to spread the word, to make connections to increase our SNAP customer base. I’m reaching out to other organizations,” she said.

In the summer, the market is set up under spreading old trees on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society, but after Oct. 3, until the end of the season, it’s held at Shields Elementary School on Savannah Road.

“It’s interesting. We actually have done better with the program in the fall, and I am not sure why,” Mary added.

The Historical Lewes Farmers Market has been recognized locally and nationally; it is a producer-only market, and the vendors are committed to encouraging SNAP participation.

For more information on the market, visit www.historiclewesfarmersmarket.org or email historiclewesfarmersmarket@comcast.net or call 302-644-1436. For more information on the Food Bank of Delaware, visit www.fbd.org

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition, Programs