How to donate food to a food bank this Thanksgiving

A man smiling and holding a frozen turkey.
November 3, 2022
by Feeding America staff

Families across the country will come together in the coming weeks to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. For many of us, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without turkey and a table full of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and other festive sides. But nearly 34 million people faced hunger in 2021. And when you don’t have the food you need to thrive, 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 get food on the table and allow them to 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 their most needed items.

Because of the pandemic, some food banks may not accept food donations or have specific requests. follow your local food bank's rules and suggestions.

Non-perishable Thanksgiving food to donate

Be sure to Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for food banks. Healthy, non-perishable food items are always great to donate to food banks but may be in even higher demand around the holidays. While you’re grocery shopping or collecting items 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

Wondering what more you can do to help families having trouble making ends meet? 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