20 Items to Add to Your Next Food Bank Donation

We’re sharing the best food bank donations to make, and a few to avoid!

smiling woman holding a box of donation items in front of an open vehicle door

While food banks certainly appreciate your donations at any time of year, the holiday season can put an additional strain on their resources. As a result, they are especially grateful for your generosity at this time of year!

With this in mind, many individuals and organizations like to increase their donations leading up to Christmas to help meet the surging needs of their community.

woman adding items to a full box of donations

Below, we’re sharing some things to keep in mind when planning a donation to your local food bank. We’re covering the best food bank donations, things to avoid, and a few general ideas to keep in mind.

What donation items are at the top of food banks’ wish lists?

filling boxes at a food bank

First and foremost, cash is always a welcome donation. Oftentimes, your monetary donation can be used by the food bank to purchase food at a discount. As a result, donating cash may stretch your dollar farther than purchasing food at the grocery store or another retailer.

If you’d like to make a donation of food or personal care products, we have a list of items that food banks are always happy to receive – there are some things that may surprise you!

If you’re looking to keep costs down (who isn’t this year?) and would like to do a little one-stop shopping, we were able to find all of the items below at our local Dollar Tree. You may be able to find better prices when you shop weekly sales, and if you’re a Walgreens shopper, you may even be able to score some of these items free after coupon stacks and rewards.

dollar tree cart full of donation items

1. Manual can opener
2. Canned vegetables, beans, soup, etc.
3. Boxed milk
4. Vegetable oil
5. Salt & Pepper
6. Other spices and condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc.
7. Tea bags
8. Ground coffee
9. Sugar
10. Flour
11. Tuna or other canned meat
12. Crackers
13. Sandwich bread
14. Cake mix & frosting
15. Stuffing mix
16. Cereal
17. Dish & laundry detergent
18. Feminine hygiene items
19. Baby food, formula, & diapers
20. Perishable items (select food banks only)

Be sure to check with your local food bank to see if they can accommodate perishable foods like milk, eggs, butter, margarine, fresh meat, and produce. Many food banks cannot accept these items, but if they can, these foods will be greatly appreciated by the recipients.

Bonus: Keep an eye out for vegetable and herb seeds! If it’s not season-appropriate for outdoor planting, they can still be used for container gardening.

Bottles of Swirl Wine lined up on a table

What not to donate to a food bank!

While most of your food bank donations will be gratefully accepted, there are definitely a few items you’ll want to avoid.

At the top of the do-not-donate list is usually alcohol. Many well-intentioned people try to donate alcohol to food banks, especially around the holidays. Most food banks cannot accept these donations.

Open, used, or expired products should not be donated, either. This includes any product that has an expiration date that is hard to read.

Because only properly sealed items can be donated, homemade baked goods and leftovers unfortunately can’t be accepted, either.

hand holding two boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese

Finally, there are some food items that are perfectly fine to donate, but your food bank may already have a lot of them. These include the following:

  • Boxed Macaroni and Cheese – Many individuals don’t take home boxed mac and cheese when these see it at the food bank. This is likely due to the fact that it requires milk and butter, which are not available at most food banks.
  • Seasoned rice mixes – These often go unclaimed at food banks because they require butter or cooking oil.
  • Hamburger Helper – Most food banks can not stock ground beef, making a box of Hamburger Helper less appealing to individuals in need.
  • Spaghetti and pasta sauce – These are popular donations, so your food bank may already have a lot of them on the shelf.
  • Peanut butter and jelly – These are often donated too, so you may want to consider the less frequently-donated sandwich bread instead!

Looking for more ways to make a positive impact in your community?