12 Things You Should Avoid Donating To A Food Bank

Scan this list before you clean out your pantry.

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With the holiday season among us and calls for donations to help communities affected by poverty, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing items to local food drives is an easy way to give back and fight hunger. Before you raid your pantry looking for food and other goods to donate, check out this list to avoid items that aren't accepted at most food banks.

According to Feeding America, items like canned soup, beans, and pasta are always a pretty safe bet as long as there are no packaging issues. Other household items like toilet paper, toothbrushes, diapers, and can openers are also needed at food banks. To be sure that the items you donate will go to a worthy cause rather than being tossed for something easily avoidable like can dents or expiration dates, note the things you should avoid donating.

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Dented canned goods

Canned goods like fruit, vegetables and tuna are a staple of food drives for good reason, but before you drop them off, do an inspection to ensure there aren't dents, rust or other signs of damage—that could mean that the food inside is spoiled.

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Glass jars

Fruit, sauces, pickles, and other goods that are sold in glass jars should be avoided. They can easily shatter in transport, and food banks often cannot distribute them for safety reasons.

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Fresh dairy

Most food banks are unable to accept items such as cheese, butter, and milk unless it's properly packaged and shelf stable. Powdered milk is a great option that will keep much longer than a gallon from the refrigerated section.

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Bulk foods

Massive bags of rice, flour, and sugar are great for feeding lots of people, but many food banks don't have the re-packaging resources necessary to properly distribute the food to multiple families. Stick to family-sized bags and boxes to make sure your donation gets the most use.

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Candy

Though food bank staff might slip treats into donation bags on occasion, many locations are asking donors to steer clear of the sweets so that families in need have plenty of nutritious goods to take home.

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Some baby foods

Baby food in glass jars is a no-no, and baby formula is a dicey donation choice as well. Most food banks buy a specific type of formula with donation money to best serve the families in need in the area, plus formula expires very quickly and could go to waste.

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Refrigerated items

Check with your local food bank before you donate items like produce and meat, which might require refrigeration. Depending on the resources and facilities, they may not be accepted, though some locations are able to keep items cold, or even have freezer space for frozen foods.

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Sugar-sweetened drinks

Unhealthy beverage choices are being discouraged more and more by food banks and pantries across the country. Low-sugar products are your best bet, so steer clear of soda and certain juice drinks.

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Homemade foods

Though it might seem like a nice gesture to make a batch of holiday cookies or homemade bread from scratch for families in need, food banks cannot accept goods that aren't properly packaged. Skip the baking since it will get thrown out anyway!

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Leftovers

Same as homemade baked goods, any leftovers from the holidays should stay in your fridge or given to loved ones rather than food banks. For safety concerns food banks won't accept your leftovers no matter how delicious they may be.

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Open packages

Any partially-used products or open packaging will be weeded out by staff and volunteers before items are distributed at a pantry. Stick to newly purchased items, or make sure to scan your donations before you bring them in for any damage.

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Expired foods

Products that are past their listed expiration date will more often than not be excluded from the donation pool. If you think it's still perfectly good, better to use it up at home than risk it getting tossed at the food bank.

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