How to Donate
Food banks and hunger relief agencies maintain well-defined protocols for ensuring the safe and efficient collection and distribution of donated food. Donation is safe, simple and the right thing to do. Here's how.
Step 1: Identify items suitable for donation
Perishable, non-perishable and prepared foods that have not been served or sold can be donated. Both large and small amounts are welcomed.
- Bulk food items (items that normally come in volumes to be broken down into smaller proportions for distribution such as rice, beans, oatmeal, flour, etc.).
- Canned and packaged items (commercially canned, packaged, or boxed food items, meals or sauces).
- Commercially baked goods (products prepared at a commercial baking establishment).
- Dairy products and eggs (commercially packaged milk, cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, eggs, etc.).
- Dessert and sweets (baked or candy products prepared at a commercial establishment).
- Entrees and prepared items (surplus menu entrees prepared at a commercial food service establishment such as a restaurant, cafeteria, or catered event but not served or offered to the public.
- Fresh produce (any type of fruit or vegetable that is fresh- packaged or loose).
- Frozen goods (commercially packaged frozen food items
- Meats (meat, poultry, seafood, and processed items - raw or cooked - that have undergone USDA inspection and approval.
Step 2: Carefully inspect the food you want to donate.
- Donate: Food that has been handled and stored according to safe handling guidelines.
- Donate: Food with packaging or seal that is unbroken.
- Donate: Food that has been kept at the correct temperature.
- Do not donate: Frozen food that has been thawed and refrozen.
- Do not donate: Food that is in a leaking container or has had other material leaked on it.
Step 3: Contact a food rescue agency to arrange donation
Use the Fork it Over! Match + Find tool to help you locate nearby food rescue agencies. The match tool can also be customized to help you narrow your search to agencies that meet your transportation and scheduling needs.
Food rescue agencies have different ways of collecting donated food. Most listed on this site accept deliveries. Many can arrange to pick up donations on an on-call basis or on a regular pre-arranged schedule. Some provide containers for food pickup then replace them with new, clean containers after each use.
Always call ahead to confirm hours of operation and ensure that the organization can accept the items you wish to donate. Below are some tips to help you work with food rescue agencies.
Use the Fork it Over! Match + Find tool to locate a nearby food rescue agency that fits your needs. Or contact us for free assistance.
Tips for Success
Many businesses and food rescue agencies have established successful, mutually-beneficial relationships. Clear expectations and a basic understanding of each other’s operations are important.
Food rescue agencies are grateful for your contributions, but also appreciate a little flexibility and understanding as many rely on volunteer labor. Some prefer to function like your other vendors; setting up a regular donation schedule that can be added to an existing route. Keep in mind that agencies may lack the capacity to accept all donations, all the time. While a few are open standard business hours, others have varied schedules. The Match + Find tool, can help narrow your search to find agencies that best meet your needs.
When you call, confirm:
- They accept the food you plan to donate.
- Approximate date and time of exchange and hours of operation.
- Delivery methods and details such as drop-off or pick-up.
- Contact information for people making and receiving donations.
Before Pickup or Delivery:
- Follow safe food handling processes.
Establishing and maintaining relationships:
- Develop relationships with agencies that are well-matched to your needs.
- Establish a routine and integrate donation into your standard operating procedures.
- Always call ahead.
Donate the best. Compost the rest!
You'd be surprised how much wholesome surplus food you may be able to set aside for donation.
However, there's bound to be some that is unsuitable. In many Metro jurisdictions, you can compost food that cannot be donated along with your kitchen scrap and plate waste. Contact Metro to find out if your business can integrate composting into your operations and reduce your waste.