Donating Outdated Foods to a Food Bank

Can 'Expired' Foods Be Donated?

“Expired” foods can be donated.
We had to say it because not everyone knows it. Food items that are past their “best before” dates are accepted and appreciated at food donation stations and food banks across the country. Please help spread the word.

Estimates vary, but each and every year a large percentage of food produced for people to eat in the U.S. goes to waste. When we began in 2011 the estimates of food waste were around 40%, we’d like to think that people are putting a dent in that number so want to believe some of the more current estimates that have come in as low as 25-30%. Even if they are now lower, it’s still too high.

You may be thinking: Is it OK to donate expired food? (and/or) Do food banks accept expired foods? The answer to both questions is an overwhelming “YES!!“. That answer is even backed by the USDA.

Donate Unwanted 'Expired' Foods

Outdated Foods Can be Donated

The whole picture of wasted food begins with all the resources that went into producing that food (including water and electricity) through the stores and then the consumers and ending with the methane gas produced from that same food rotting in landfills. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more damaging to the environment than CO2. We remain committed to helping this food cycle in any way possible. Getting foods that someone isn’t using into the hands of those who need it is another way that folks can help. Donating outdated foods to food banks, whether on a small or a large scale, helps to chip away at the huge food waste problem.

We all know that donating to a food bank is a good thing.
There are bins at the grocery store, especially around the holidays, where you can purchase food and then leave it in the bin to be donated to the food bank once the bin is full. This is great, but food banks need donations all year long and our goal still, after all these years, is to put a dent in the huge food waste problems.

As much as we preach about being able to eat and enjoy “expired” foods, we know there are people out there that still just can’t (maybe for medical reasons) or won’t eat these foods. Here’s a solution for them. Donate “expired” foods from your cupboards into the food bank cupboards instead of tossing them into the landfill.

For those people out there that don’t want to eat “expired” foods, there are many more people out there that are quite happy to do so. PLEASE, instead of reaching for the trash can with “expired” food items, look for the closest food bank! They will gladly accept and redistribute outdated food items for you. This way, everyone wins!

Food banks will take foods, expired or not, and figure out the best use for them. We’re not taking about moldy or rancid foods here, those must unfortunately be retired to a compost pile or to the trash. We’re talking about those items that are beyond their “best before” dates. Remember, these dates are manufacturer suggested for best product quality and not for safety.

Taking a look at the list of the most needed food items at food banks (listed below), canned goods are almost always on their list. Why? That’s because canned goods are almost indestructible by father time. Canned goods are stored in fall-out shelters for good reason, if stored properly they can be eaten into eternity.

Expired Foods Can Be Donated

Foods Most Needed at Food Banks

Take a look at the following list of the most needed food items at food banks all across the country. Then take a look at the excess in your cupboards, whatever the best before date, and see if there is a donation just waiting to happen.

  • Canned tuna, chicken or salmon
  • Peanut butter
  • Meals in a can (soup, stew, chili)
  • Low-sodium canned vegetables
  • Canned fruit in its own juice or water
  • Olive or canola oil
  • Spices (especially cinnamon, chili powder, cumin and salt-free blends)
  • Canned foods with pop-top lids
  • Low-sugar whole grain cereals
  • Healthy snacks (granola bars, nuts, dried fruit)
  • Each and every item on the most wanted list has an EatByDate that is far beyond its best before date. Many of these items can last years beyond any date printed anywhere on them. Someone should make use of these items!

    The food waste problem needs help from every angle. So, if this is where you can pitch in, then find the nearest food bank and donate whatever you’ve got. They will take it (again, not actually rotten food). Use the pages of EatByDate to find out if foods have actually gone bad before donating. After all, that’s what the food banks do.

    Foods to Avoid Donating

    Do not send any baby formula or adult nutrition that is past its “best before” date. They will not take these because they are not allowed to redistribute these.

    There are some items that food banks would rather not deal with, expired or not. Items to avoid sending food banks include anything packed in glass, candy, and sugary drinks. This list could vary by food bank or food donation station, but many places do avoid these items so keep that in mind.

    Since food banks are usually run by county, it’s a good idea to check their website for questionable items before proceeding.

    Expired Foods Can Be Donated

    Additional Information

    We mentioned it twice already, but it’s worth repeating – find the closest food bank here.

    To find out how long canned vegetables last, see our canned vegetable page. If the cans are not rusted, bulging or leaking they will most likely be accepted at a food bank donation station regardless of their “best before” dates.

    To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

    SEARCH Eat By Date