With 44 million Americans and 1 in 5 children facing hunger every day, food banks are always in need of unopened, nonperishable items and dry canned goods.

Whether you're donating items from your shelves, picking up a few things up from the grocery store, or hosting your own food drive, there are a couple of things you should know when deciding to donate non-perishable items.


top 9 items food banks need MOST


1. Peanut Butter. Liked by both kids and adults, and high in protein, peanut butter is the most requested item by food banks. Consider donating peanut butter alternatives too!

2. Canned Proteins. Canned chicken is a great way to provide versatile, high-protein items to those in need. Items like canned tuna and salmon also contain vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein which make a quick and easy meal.

3. Canned Beans. Canned beans - like black beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, green beans, and pinto beans - are high in protein and fiber and provide a nutritious way to fill a hungry tummy. 

4. Pasta & Pasta Sauce. Super easy to make and exceptionally filling, pasta and pasta sauce are great items to include in your donation box. Opt for whole grain pasta since it offers more fiber and nutrition than white pasta.

5. Pantry Staples. Can you imagine having to cook in a kitchen without any flour or sugar? Unfortunately, this is a reality for many food insecure households. Donating items like flour, sugar, or condiments will greatly benefit those in need.

6. Canned Vegetables. Veggies are always high in demand, and for good reason. Nutrient-rich, and fiber dense, they tend to last the longest in pantries and are the perfect, easy way to provide healthy options.

7. Cooking Essentials, like olive oil and spices. In many food insecure households, access to cooking basics isn’t available often. Stick to the basics, like garlic powder, minced onion, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.

8. Formula. In food insecure communities, many parents are unable to breastfeed but struggle to buy formula due to the high costs. While there are programs available that provide formula to low income families, it never hurts to have more than enough.

9. Baby Food. For the same reason, you should donate formula, it’s a good idea to donate any unused baby foods that may be hiding in your pantry.


Items You Shouldn’t Donate to Food Banks

While food banks are usually happy to take whatever donations you drop off, there are a few things you should keep in mind when donating food items.

  • Some food banks may not take items in glass containers since they may break easily and spoil the other donations. If you have items in glass containers you’d like to donate, give your local food bank or pantry a call to see if they will accept them!


  • Opened foods are a no-go for food items. These items are sure to be thrown away, as opened foods can’t be served or provided to individuals for contamination purposes.


  • Items with packaging concerns or dents


  • This one may seem obvious, but expired items also shouldn’t be donated to food banks. You can find out how to know if your items are expired here. According to SierraClub.org, if the items that are expired are in recyclable containers, you should dump the contents into a compost pile and recycle the containers.


Where To Donate Your Items

It can be difficult to search for a place to take your donations. Luckily, Feeding America created this Food Bank Finder that will pull up every food bank and pantry near your zipcode or in your state!


Other Ways You Can Help

Food waste is a major issue throughout America. In fact, 38% of the food in the United States goes unsold or uneaten. According to The National Resource Defense Council, if we were able to rescue just 15% of the food we waste, we’d save enough to feed 25 million Americans each year. ReFed believes that by implementing food recovery solutions, we could provide 1.8 billion meals to people who are in need.

As we’ve discussed here, donating your unopened food is a great way to combat food waste. Next, learn ways that you can reduce food waste at home. There are a number of simple steps that you can take today.

If you want to find other ways to help food insecure communities, you can host your own food drive or fundraiser, or donate to help feed individuals and families!