This is not an exhaustive list but it covers a lot of what clients regularly need. Additionally, we accept personal care and household items, since many families struggle to afford these items and they aren’t covered by other food assistance programs like SNAP.
If you’re still stumped about what to donate, just look in your own pantry. Families struggling with hunger often can’t afford the staples that we normally have stocked at home. So, check your pantry out and go from there. Even specialty foods like olive oil, dressings or marinades can be helpful if they don’t need to be refrigerated.
Speaking of refrigeration, that leads to…
What not to donate to a food bank
The number one rule to remember is this: if your donation is perishable, i.e. it’s something that has a limited shelf life if not refrigerated, food banks won’t accept it. But there are other categories of food that you can’t donate. We’ve broken it all down into this handy list:
- Items needing refrigeration: As we’ve already mentioned, this is the big one. Food like produce, dairy and meat can spoil easily and we may not have the refrigerator or freezer space needed to keep these items fresh. While an individual can’t donate a bunch of bananas or a frozen turkey, we do work directly with farmers, retailers, restaurants and other companies to source these perishable foods for donation.
- Expired food: When considering what to donate, think about what you’d be comfortable serving your family. Chances are, you don’t eat food that’s past its “use-by” or “sell-by” date, so avoid donating anything past those dates to food banks as it could be unsafe to eat.
- Leftovers: While it may be tempting to want to share the bountiful food from big meals like Thanksgiving, it’s best to keep leftovers for family. To ensure the people they serve are safe, we can’t accept leftovers or anything made in personal kitchens because they aren’t individually sealed and we can’t verify the ingredients or preparation process.
- Food with packaging concerns: This includes food with damaged packaging such as dented or bloated cans, packaging that is already open, or even items in glass containers, which can shatter and cause food safety concerns for any other food they’re stored near. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t consider buying it new, don’t donate it.
- Baked goods: Similar to leftovers, we can’t confirm how your baked goods were made or their ingredients, so they can’t be donated. But, we have relationships with local restaurants or bakeries which donate extra food that is properly labeled and handled.