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Food Donation works best in modern browsers like Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer 8. All are free to download and will greatly improve your internet experience. Reducing and recycling organic waste is a top priority for Californians and us here in Santa Barbara County. Cutting back on food waste and putting the correct materials in our green containers are important ways to divert waste from the landfill. Learn more about green container programs in your area, backyard composting, food waste reduction, and other ways to reduce or recycle organic waste in this section. Businesses should also get involved!

According to the food waste hierarchy, feeding hungry people is the second-best thing we can do to prevent food waste. That includes feeding yourself, your household, or sharing food with your neighbors and friends.  But if you have good quality, unopened food that you wish to donate, that is still a great way to reduce food waste. Donation may be a good option for you if you are traveling or moving and have some extra food items. Find your closest donation location in the "Where to go" section at the bottom of the page.

Donation items should be unopened, fresh, and high quality. It is sometimes okay to donate food that are past the expiration date, click here for more information.

Food Forward Bread Pasta

Common Donation Guidelines

Unprepared Foods

  • In original packaging
  • Unopened
  • Not past expiration date
  • No candy or soda
  • No home-canned foods
  • Pet food is also acceptable at some locations
  • Examples include: bread, cereal, whole grains (e.g. barley, buckwheat, oats, rice, quinoa, wheat), nuts, dried beans, lentils, pasta, coffee, tea, and canned fruits, vegetables, beans, tuna, or soups

Prepared Foods

  • Same criteria as above for unprepared foods, plus:
  • Food should be placed in food-safe plastic bags or food-safe, sanitized, shallow containers with a depth or width of less than four inches
  • Food should be immediately refrigerated or frozen to ensure that the temperature is 41 degrees or lower within four hours of preparation, and should include the time and date that it was cooked, first frozen or refrigerated, and any other times that its temperature was changed
  • Prepared food donations should only come from businesses or certain events

Examples of donatable prepared foods depend on the food recovery agency that the food is being donated to. Food recovery agencies should be aware and ready to take prepared food. Not all groups take prepared food.

Liability Protection

A federal law, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, protects good faith donors from civil and criminal liability if a product later causes harm to its recipient. It's designed to encourage donations of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations, such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens, social service organizations, and churches for distribution to needy individuals. This law is also applicable to businesses.

Tax Benefits

Under Assembly Bill 152, a "qualified taxpayer" who donates fresh fruits or vegetables to a food bank in California may receive a tax credit up to 10%. Also, under Section 170e3 of the Internal Revenue Code, an enhanced tax deduction is available to businesses that donate wholesome food to 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations that serve the poor and needy.

Donations from Household Fruit Trees

Households that have five or more fruit trees can contact the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County to have their fruit harvested. Residents with fewer than five trees are encouraged to pick the ripe fruit and bring it to the Food Bank themselves. Contact the Food Bank if you need to borrow harvesting tools.

Food Scraps for Animals

Another option for preventing/reducing food waste is to donate food scraps to local animal organizations. BUNS (Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter) accepts fresh greens and vegetables, and Lil' Orphan Hammies accepts fresh produce and bread products.

You can also create fun recipes for your pets, but check with your vet before feeding your animals any human food. Dogs love peanut butter, pumpkin puree or plain Greek yogurt.

Food Forward Bunnies

Photo courtesy of BUNS
Food Forward Pigs
Photo courtesy of Lil' Orphan Hammies

The Santa Barbara Zoo also accepts edible fruits and vegetables (such as leftover produce that residents have grown at home) and organic, pesticide-free tree trimmings and branches to feed to the Zoo's animals. Download their Plant and Tree Donation Flyer here or their Produce Donation Flyer here, or just click on the flyers below.

SB Zoo Plant Donation Flyer JPG  SB Zoo Produce Donation Flyer JPG

For additional tips on reducing food waste, please download our new Food Forward booklet.


Where to go

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