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Practical Guide to Donating Food

On the General Donation Information page of our website you can learn the basics of food donation including common sources of donatable goods (e.g. mislabeled products) and the benefits of food donation (e.g. tax incentives). Below you will find practical information on how to start a donation program at your facility. 

Step 1 - Effective food donation requires forethought and commitment. Before beginning your organization should understand the process, as well as the costs and benefits associated with donating. See our General Donation Information page for more.

Step 2 - See the table below or check out our Organic Resource Locator tool to find your nearest food bank. It is important to communicate with them from the beginning because they can direct you on food safety guidelines, potential hauling options, and what food they accept.

Step 3 - Based on feedback from the food bank, it is important to understand how much, what types, and how often food will be available for donation.  There are several ways of going about answering these questions, including using our Self-Assessment tool box.

Step 4 - After information is gathered in Step 3, you can reconnect with your food bank to talk through next steps and establish a strategy for donating into the future.  This discussion may include topics such as logistics/transportation needs, documentation, and food safety requirements.

Step 5 - It is likely that you may need to purchase and/or repurpose storage containers and freezer space for food donation. It is better to prepare these items ahead of time so you are not problem solving while time sensitive food sits waiting for action.

Step 6 - This is an ongoing task and probably the most important one. Often your local food bank can help provide training material to your staff.

Step 7 - Keeping track of what you are donating can teach you a lot about what food you are wasting. See our Source Reduction page for more information.

Step 8 - Communication is key both with your staff and the food bank.

Left Column: 

What are safe handling practices to follow?

There are several resources and tools available to help you understand food safety requirements. Below are a few places to start

  • Reach out to your local food bank or health department and ask questions

  • Review the Comprehensive Guidance for Food Recovery Programs developed at the Conference for Food Protection. The guide includes extensive content on food acceptability conditions by food type, storage and transportation recommendations, and information about date labeling, etc. 

  • Locate and participate in safe handling training/guidance, such as Servsafe

  • Check out Food Donation Guidance provided by Massachusetts RecyclingWorks.

  • Contact Us

Right Column: 

What type of food is appropriate?

  • Food that is still fit for consumption but not able to be used at your business should be donated whenever possible. Most food banks accept donations in varying amounts from cases to truckloads.  Some examples of donatable food items include:

    • Produce
    • Dry-store goods (bread, flour, grains)
    • Refrigerated items (dairy, meats, prepared foods*)
    • Non-perishable items (cereals, pasta, canned goods, jarred goods, mac&cheese)
    • Frozen perishable food (vegetables, meals, meats)
    • Bulk and raw ingredients (rice, spices)
    • Beverages (protein shakes, juice, tea)
* Not all food banks/rescues accept prepared food donations

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