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Foods Stored For Y2K Glitch Can Have Other Uses
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Food stored for a year-end computer glitch that didn't happen now must be stored safely until used or given away, an option food banks nationwide are welcoming.
John Alford, executive director of the Mississippi Food Network in Jackson, said the charity's parent national organization, Second Harvest, has set aside Jan. 15 to Feb. 15 as a food drive for excess Y2K stockpiled food.
"Americans are encouraged to donate any excess supplies to food banks or local charities," Alford said. "We're certainly willing to accept perishable and nonperishable items."
The Mississippi Food Network serves 330 charities in 74 Mississippi counties and 12 Louisiana parishes. Last year, the food bank distributed more than 9 million pounds of food and expects to exceed 10 million pounds in 2000, Alford said.
"Most Mississippi people needing assistance are either children, seniors or the working poor," Alford said. "The need for food assistance is continuous and it is growing. ... This is not a temporary thing. As the government backs out, the private sector has to step in."
Dr. Melissa Mixon, food safety specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said for those planning to eat their stored food, the first rule is to keep it clean. Don't taste any food suspected of being spoiled. If in doubt, throw it out.
"In general, most canned foods have a very long shelf life and when properly stored, are safe to eat for many years," Mixon said. "However, a product's practical shelf life is tied to proper storage."
Although still safe to eat, canned goods loose nutrients and flavor in time. For best results, store these in clean, dry and cool cabinets away from pipes that can leak, and use within a year. Glass containers should be kept in a dark place as light changes the color, making food appear less appetizing.
The key to preserving dry goods is to keep them in a cool, dark and dry area. Keep insects and rodents away. The ideal temperature is 50 degrees, although 60 to 70 degrees is acceptable. In the kitchen, keep dry goods away from the oven, stove or refrigerator exhaust. Do not store under the sink or next to household products.
"Good housekeeping is also a must," Mixon said. "Be sure to clean out storage areas periodically and remove food particles that can collect on shelves, in corners and in cracks."
Mixon also recommended storing dry goods in metal, glass or plastic containers with tight fitting lids. This prevents the food from being exposed to moisture, air and insects. Be sure to use the oldest items first.