Food Donation Mistakes Everyone Makes



There’s a feeling like no other when we give things to people less fortunate. If we can afford to, why not spread some kindness and charity?

It makes us feel so much better when we give donations to understandably down trodding people in times of need. But with these costly donations come some huge mistakes that can be had.

Knowing Donations


It can be a wonderful thing to donate things to local food banks.

After all, people can hit rough times and need a hand. However, these donations centers often end up with so many things they can’t use or huge mistakes that end up costing both sides money. Here are some of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Checking In


Before you visit to donate, check the hours of your local food bank. Because they are mostly run by volunteers, they might not have regular opening hours or days.
But you should be calling in EVERY time you want to donate because their needs constantly change. One day, they might need a load of toilet paper, but the other day will require a bunch of oranges.

Opened Food


Never donate opened food to food banks! This isn’t conservation. It’s waste. If you think you’re left over Thanksgiving dinner is a good idea, think twice.
It will just go in the garbage. Aside from spoilage issues, there’s a general health concern. New, unopen, intact items only.

Expired Food


There are a ton of online channels about how to get a deal if food is “just past its best date.”

However, even if that 1-day expired bacon is hugely discounted, forget about donating it. There are laws and health issues that prohibit giving out such things. Instead, just buy it for yourself … if you dare.

Refrigerated Items


Cold-store items are not bad. In fact, they are often needed.

But before loading up on cheese and yoghurt, ALWAYS call the food bank and see if they have refrigeration facilities. Basically, if you call ahead for anything, your shopping list will be automatically made for you!

Homemade Things


Sorry, as much as granny’s famous sugar snap cookies are little discs of heaven, food banks will not accept them.

This included homemade canned or jarred things. It doesn’t matter if the jam is divine. It’s the same line as sending in opened or expired items. Instead hold a bake sale and donate the money instead.

Unlabelled Things


Do you have a mystery can that’s been sitting in the back of the cupboard for two years?

Forget it. Food banks are not “let’s give them the garbage we don’t want” places. It’s better just to toss what ever is inside and recycle the can. On that note, always check expiration dates before buying.

Glass Jars


Pasta sauce is always wanted. Apple sauce is another top contender.

But not all banks accept glass items – mostly because they are harder to transport and they worry about breakage. This rule, however, doesn’t apply everywhere. So, guess what? If you don’t know … you guessed it … call!

Frozen Foods


The rule for frozen foods is the same for cold items.

Some places can take them. Some places cannot. This is especially important if you want to donate things like Thanksgiving turkey. Frozen chicken might be dicey because of health issues. Ice cream just melts too fast.

Not Pairing


What’s a “food pair”, you ask?

These are items that are always needed together. Things like sauce and pasta or cereal and milk. But there can also be “food groups” as well. If the stove top stuffing needs oil or butter, it’s better to get everything to make that dish and donate it as a bundle.

Sugar Blasts


Food banks are overflowing with sugar-packed cereals.

People think that parents will love their kids to have an expensive bowl of marshmallow chocolate puffs, but that’s just not the case. Everyone, especially little ones, need healthy food. It’s okay to donate breakfast cereal, but stick to oatmeal and muesli or other low/non-sugar options.

Junk Food


It’s not just sugar cereal that’s the problem. It’s junk food in general. People often think of them as treats and want others to have that joy as well. But people who need food banks aren’t even thinking of fun stuff to binge on. They need basic food to live on. Try to stay on the healthy side.

A Closed Mind


Do you hate tuna?

That’s okay. But still buy some to donate. Tuna, peanut butter, lentils and other easy sources of protein are always in high demand. Don’t let your personal food taste dictate what your charity shopping list looks like.

Blind Trust


Where there are people looking to do good, there are often shady scams trying to get in on the action.

Any scam posing as a charity organization usually functions over the phone or only online. Don’t just blindly trust food banks. If possible, and especially if you have a large cash donation, go and visit their facilities first.

Forgetting Facts


It might look like a ton of food sitting in a warehouse.

But most people forget the hard facts … that most banks only have enough resources to support an individual or family for three to five days once a month. Something is better than nothing, but it’s never enough.

Coupon Cutting


If you’ve seen those crazy coupon cutters that buy $500 worth of food but end up getting money back, you’ll know it’s possible to find loop holes in the system.

Many of these people use the “extras” they get as donations, but always make sure that what your clipping is something you can actually donate.

Non-Food Items


It’s not just food that’s needed.

Diapers, toilet paper, and other personal products often get overlooked. It might be because the “food” of food bank makes people go into tunnel vision. Maybe see if they need cleaning products. Another in-demand product is any personal feminine things.

Going Cheap

Food banks rely heavily on these essential and pricier items being donated.

If you can get your hands on some canola and olive oil, you’ll be a superstar. They are best choices because of their monounsaturated fats and mild flavor. See if some spices, herbs, or other stuff can make it into the shopping cart.

Fresh vs. Instant


Fresh isn’t a bad thing. But sometimes instant or long-life product are better.

Instant potatoes last longer and require minimal tools and ingredients to whip up. Condensed/instant soups, quick oats instead of long-cooked, and instant sauce mixes that only need water … it’s safer to go in this direction.

White And Bleached

Rice is great! It’s filling, versatile and easy to prepare and store.

But there’s a large problem with the cheaper white versions stacking the shelves. It’s better to be health-conscious and give things like brown rice which has more fibre. Quinoa is also a great item to donate.

Some Fresh


Food like apples, potatoes, bananas and other fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be refrigerated are always welcome. But don’t give things that will rot fast – like strawberries. If there is anything that might turn quickly, it’s better to get the frozen version. But then, you’ll need to call and see if they can take cold stuff.

Milk, Milk, Milk!


Shelf-stable and powdered milk is one of the top three items.

It stays forever and can be used in so many things. You can never go wrong with giving a huge box of this stuff. What you should not do is give the fresh version. There’s no point because it won’t make it to the families in time.

Tricky Cans


Does it need a can opener?

Forget it then. So many canned donations end up needed extra things to open them. And we can just assume someone will have the hardware. Make sure all cans have the lids and such have that “pull lid”.

Forgetting Differences


A food bank is a storage hub that receives food directly from food drives and the food industry, and distributes it to agencies, local soup kitchens and shelters to those who need it.

food pantry is a single location that gets food from a food bank and distributes it directly to people in need. These are usually standalone facilities that donate to families on a monthly basis.

Going Complicated

Maybe you want to donate everything needed to make a fabulous beef wellington.

Please, no. People’s cooking stills differ vastly. There’s also no guarantee they will have the extra hours to whip up something. It’s always better to sick to the side of simplicity.

Ignoring Money

Express & Star

Money is always great.

They always want it, because it lets banks go out and get the stuff they really need. Or, it can go towards paying the electricity bill to keep the freezers, fridges, and lights running.

Chaotic Donations


Maybe your community decided to host a large food drive.

If so, that’s great! However, always call the charity ahead of time to see if they are able to accept huge donations. Otherwise, the volunteers will be overburdened with trying to sort things out. This is where knowing the different between banks and pantries is important!

Forgetting Time

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Don’t have much money?

That’s okay! A lot of people make the mistake of thinking their wallet is the only way to help out. These places NEED volunteers. And it’s not difficult work either. Much of it is shelf stocking and food sorting into output boxes. A few hours here and there is priceless.

Ignoring The Home

Think about how your own home works.

Are your kids picky eaters? Is your baby currently on formula? Other’s homes are mysterious entities. They are like everyone else. Look around at the important things in your home and think about what you can buy that might help.


Going “Weird”

That Japanese canned bread might be cool for an online review video.

But it’s not a good idea for a food donation. Maybe the reindeer pate is a gourmet treat where you come from, and you want to broaden other’s horizons, but it’s the worst idea to throw in the donation box. Stick to common items.

Damaged, Dented or Rusted Cans

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As mentioned before, donating canned staple foods like tuna, peanut butter and fruit is always a good idea but only if the can itself is in good condition.

So, before you donate, make sure there’s no damages to the can like rusting or dents that could spoil the food inside. If so, these will be turned away.

Fresh Dairy

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Sometimes when we say refrain from fresh foods, we automatically think about fruits and vegetables, but any and all dairy food is included in that list too.

Even though you may think cheese has a long expiration date given it’s ageing process to mature, it doesn’t. Oft for powered milk instead.

Bulk Bag Foods

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You might think buying a massive bulk bags of rice, flour or sugar is great but it isn’t!

Many food banks can’t distribute these big bags across the multiple families that need them, so stick to family-sized bags so everyone can get a bag.

Can’t Do Candy

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Just like junk food, candy may seem like a treat that would be much appreciated but it’s not.

Food banks push donors to steer clear from candy and replace it will nutritionally substantial foods that won’t cause any adverse health problems.

Dealing With Baby Food

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You already know that glass jars are a no-no. But baby food in glass jars are a big no-no. Therefore, you might go for baby formula instead, but don’t!

Most food banks buy a specific type of formula with their money donations that will best serve the young families that need them.

Sugar-sweetened Drinks

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Food banks also don’t like to see sugar-sweetened drinks and sodas being donated. They feel the same about these donations as they do about junk and candy.

So aim for low-sugar beverages that won’t cause tooth decay or other health problems.

Seasonal Donations

FODMAP Everyday

Everyone loves to eat according to the season. And people who avail of food banks are no different.

At Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter and other occasions, feel free to donate items that are fun and celebrate the festive season but stay within the guidelines!


Wide Open Eats

Although foods like canned proteins, vegetables and fruits and carbs are important, food banks also love to see spices being donated.

Spices including basil, oregano, cinnamon, thyme and rosemary, etc go down very well in food banks and are a handy household item. Again be mindful that the packaging adheres to their guidelines.

Body Wash Products

Holiday Express

As mentioned before, it’s easy to forget food banks also need personal hygiene products.

If you’re wondering what best to donate, here’s just a few; Shampoo, Condition, Body Wash, hand and body lotion and lip balm for colder days.

Hygiene Products


Also, don’t forget other daily hygiene products you use too. These products include toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, deodorant, etc.

Just make sure all the packaging is in good condition and the the expiry date and labelling is all in check.