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Best Foods To Donate

Want to make a donation of food? That’s great!  Whether you’re starting a food drive or planning to grab a few extra items for donation while out grocery shopping, there are a couple things you should know about what you can donate and what we cannot accept. 

Download the list!


What Food You CAN donate:

This part is pretty easy.  You can donate dry and canned food donations. What does that mean? Basically, any food that is “shelf-stable” or nonperishable – you can keep it in your pantry and it won’t go bad. And remember, only donate food that hasn’t reached its “sell-by” date yet. Specifically, food banks often need items like:



  • Unsweetened applesauce

  • Canned mango/peaches/pears/pineapple in 100% juice

  • Shelf-stable fruit cups (in 100% Juice)

  • Dried fruit with no added sugar

  • 100% fruit juice




  • Low-sodium\reduced-sodium canned vegetables

  • Spaghetti sauce - no sugar added

  • Canned jalapenos

  • 100% vegetable juice 


  • Whole grain pasta, crackers, cereals

  • Brown rice



  • Canned tuna, salmon, anchovies, and sardines (in Water)

  • Canned chicken

  • Low-Sodium canned beans

  • Low-Sodium chickpeas

  • Dried lentils, pinto beans, black beans

  • Peanut butter


  • Milk (Low fat Dry, 2% Evaporated, 1% Shelf-Stable) 



  • Spices 

  • Coffee/tea 

  • Canola, vegetable, olive oil

  • Vinegar 

  • Flour 

  • Sugar, brown sugar, honey  

  • Low sodium/reduced sodium canned chicken or vegetable broth

  • Low sodium/reduced sodium soups

  • Low sodium/reduced sodium, no added sugar Ketchup and Mustard

  • Dried chili pods

  • Mole Sauce 

  • Pumpkin seeds

Additionally, our food bank can accept personal care and household items (Toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, adult and infant diapers, etc.) since many families struggle to afford these items and they are not covered by other food assistance programs like SNAP.

If you’re still stumped about what to donate, just look in your own pantry. Families struggling with hunger often can’t afford the staples that we normally have stocked at home. So, check your pantry out and go from there. Even specialty foods like olive oil, dressings or marinades can be helpful if they don’t need to be refrigerated.

Speaking of refrigeration, that leads to…

What NOT to donate:

The number one rule to remember is this: if your donation is something that has a limited shelf life if not refrigerated, it is best not to donate it. But there are other categories of food that you should not donate. We've broken it all down into this handy list:

  • Items needing refrigeration: Food like produce, dairy, and meat can spoil easily. While an individual can’t donate a bunch of bananas or a frozen turkey, our food bank does work directly with farmers, retailers, community gardens and other companies to source healthy, fresh food for donation. 

  • Expired food: When considering what to donate, think about what you’d be comfortable serving your family. Chances are, you don’t eat food that’s past its “use-by” or “sell-by” date, so avoid donating anything past those dates to food banks as it could be unsafe to eat.

  • Leftovers: While it may be tempting to want to share the bountiful food from big meals like Thanksgiving, it’s best to keep leftovers for family. To ensure the safety of the families, our food bank cannot  accept leftovers or anything made in personal kitchens because we cannot verify the ingredients or preparation process. 

  • Food with packaging concerns: This includes food with damaged packaging such as dented or bloated cans, packaging that is already open, or even items in glass containers, which can shatter and cause food safety concerns for any other food they’re stored near. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn't consider buying it new, don't donate it.

  • Baked goods: Similar to leftovers, since food banks can’t confirm how your baked goods were made or their ingredients, they can’t be donated. But, food banks often have relationships with local restaurants or bakeries which will donate extra food that is properly labeled and handled to nearby pantries, soup kitchens or shelters.




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Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC

3330 Shorefair Drive

Winton-Salem, NC 27105

Tel: 336-784-5770

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