Updated: Jul 18
Donating to a food pantry is a good idea...volunteering is a great idea! What you can donate depends greatly on the facility, the clientele, and the season. Volunteering with a local pantry will give you the knowledge best rescue surplus food in your community and ensure the dignity of the clients served.
Aileen, the Pantry Manager at CAIN in Northside, answers some key questions to help us understand how we can help our communities this season.
1. What can people donate to your pantry?
Donations can be anything that is unopened, in fair condition and within date (sort of). There is a lot to understand as far as what sell by/best by/best used by dates mean for the safety and quality of packaged foods. I often use eatbydate.com to help me clarify each item if I’m unsure. Also consider the dignity of those using a food pantry. Think to yourself, is this something I would want to eat? What we don’t want are items many years expired, clearly from the long-forgotten corners of your pantry.
We also accept inedible items like cleaners, personal care items, baby diapers, adult incontinence items, menstrual products, and pet foods. Those items should also be clean and in decent condition. The summer months are a great time to donate excess produce from your garden if you have a green thumb.
2. What are the items you need most?
Items we often get asked for but rarely receive from regular donation sources include household cleaners, adult incontinence products, baby wipes and “pantry staples.” Pantry staples are things like flours, oil, spices, coffee, tea – everyday basics. Cleaners and personal non-food items are just as necessary as food but aren’t always covered by programs like SNAP and WIC. It’s always a good idea to just ask the pantry you’re donating to, though. Each pantry may have different needs based on the communities served and the season.
3. How can be people become volunteers for your pantry?
If you’re interested in volunteering for CAIN, you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are especially in need of volunteers who can speak Spanish, with it being the primary language of about a third of those we serve.
Looking for more info on what you can donate, check out this “at a glance”!
Pantry Donation At-a-Glance
Commonly Accepted Items
Must be commercially packaged or produced. (Learn More)
Labeled and undented. (Learn More)
In original packaging. (Learn More)
In original packaging, unopened. (Learn More)
Dry Goods (pasta, spices, kitchen staples):
Labeled and in original packaging. (Learn More)
Check with your pantry before donating.
Donate only good, wholesome, fresh produce. (Learn More)
Personal Care Products (including diapers):
In original packaging, commercially packaged. (Learn More)
In original packaging. (Learn More)
Commonly Rejected Items
Perishable Items: (Cheese, Dairy, Eggs, and Fresh Meat):
Check with the Pantry! Must be sealed, USDA or FDA inspected and wholesome. Many pantries require perishable items to be donated direct from the producer, processor, or grocery store. (Learn More)
Consider volunteering for Last Mile Food Rescue to get surplus food to your local pantry!
Frozen Foods and Packaged Deli Meat:
Check with Pantry! Frozen foods must stay frozen. Refrigerated, food must stay refrigerated. Dry meats (like summer sausage) can be donated at room temperature if they’re commercially sealed and have been stored at room temperature. (Learn More)
Do Not Donate
Bill Emmerson Good Samaritan Act:
The Bill Emerson Food Donation Act establishes Federal protection from civil and criminal liability for persons involved in the donation and distribution of food and grocery products when certain criteria are met. (Learn More)
To ensure that food is wholesome and fit for human consumption, staff often purchase items from retailers. Consider making a financial contribution!
Most date labels are not based on exact science. Manufacturers generally apply date labels as an indicator of quality and flavor. For this reason, many pantries are comfortable accepting past date items, within reason. Check with your pantry first. (Learn More)
The best way to address hunger is to get involved and volunteer! Contact your local pantry and get involved today!
Stale Bread Stuffing
Looking for a recipe to use up some stale bread that is difficult to donate? Check out this upcycled recipe (which can be gluten free if using gluten free bread) from Hamilton County R3Source, Environmental Business Specialist, Christin Badinghaus!
1 ½ cups chopped celery (with leaves)
¾ cup finely chopped onion
¾ cup vegan butter
9 cups bread cubes (I used my leftover bread ends, cubed them, and let them sit out on the counter overnight to get stale)
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground sage
½ tsp dried thyme leaves
¼ tsp pepper
3 or 4 eggs
Cook and stir celery and onion in vegan butter until celery is tender; remove from heat.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Lay evenly in a 9 x 13 casserole dish (you will need two for this recipe).
Combine the eggs and soy milk, whisk.
Pour mixture over the stuffing mixture.
Bake at 350, covered with foil for an hour.
Uncover and bake until bread starts to brown.
Remove from oven and pour gravy over the stuffing.