How to donate food to a food bank this Thanksgiving

A man smiling and holding a frozen turkey.
November 23, 2021
by Feeding America staff

This holiday season, families across the country will set their tables to come together and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Of course, for many of us, the holidays wouldn’t be complete without a turkey and heaping sides of stuffing and mashed potatoes on the table. But because of the COVID pandemic, more than 38 million people faced hunger in 2020. And for many, celebrating the holidays can be tough. 

If you want to get into the spirit of service for Thanksgiving, donating food to your local food bank is a great way to help your neighbors create meaningful holiday memories.

Here’s how you can help a family put a holiday meal on the table this Thanksgiving: 

Where to donate food for Thanksgiving

The first step to donating a Thanksgiving meal to a family facing hunger is finding your local food bank. The Feeding America network includes 200 food banks throughout the United States that work with food pantries and soup kitchens to reach communities. Once you find a food bank near you, you can find drop-off information, operation hours, and even the most needed items

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some food banks may not accept food donations or have specific requests. Be sure to follow your local food bank's guidance on what they need most this holiday.

Non-perishable Thanksgiving Food to Donate List

Thanksgiving is one of the business times of the year for food banks. Healthy, non-perishable food is always great to donate to a food bank but is in even higher demand around the holidays. While you’re grocery shopping  or collecting for your Thanksgiving food drive, look for items such as:

•    Boxed stuffing
•    Instant mashed potatoes
•    Canned vegetables 
•    Dry macaroni
•    Cranberry sauce
•    Canned Pumpkin

What to avoid donating for Thanksgiving

Because food banks need to maintain high safety standards, you should not plan to donate a Thanksgiving turkey or donate leftovers from your holiday meal to food banks. Instead, the Feeding America network of food banks’ food rescue programs works with restaurants, caterers, and manufacturers to donate leftover food that is guaranteed to be fresh and safe for families in need. 

While donating fresh fruits and vegetables may seem like a great way to help families put healthy food on the table, it is better to skip donating highly perishable items. Food banks often work with farmers and corporate partners to help bring fresh produce to families before it goes bad. Other items to avoid donating are food nearing its expiration date, foods very high in fat or sugar.

Considering donating a Thanksgiving turkey to your local food bank? Check out our blog post to learn more about donating a turkey and what you can do instead.

How to do even more to give back this holiday season

Still feeling inspired to continue helping families? Here is how you can continue to make an impact in your community during Thanksgiving.
•    Join our virtual Thanksgiving food drive
•    Volunteer at a food bank
•    Become a monthly donor