Skip to content
Home > Organics > Food Donation

Food Donation

Reducing organic waste is a top priority for Californians and us here in Santa Barbara County. Cutting back on food waste and putting yard trimmings into our green bins are great ways to divert waste from the landfill. Find out more about yard waste recycling, composting, food waste reduction, and other ways to reduce organic waste in this section.

Giving usable food items to those in our community who are less fortunate is a humanitarian way to cut back on food waste. Find your closest donation location in the "Where to go" section at the bottom of the page.

The County of Santa Barbara partners with Santa Barbara County Food Rescue, which is a collaborative effort to connect food donations with delivery to needy recipients. Click here for more info.

Sample Donation Items

Unprepared Foods

  • Packaged foods - bread, cereal, whole grains (e.g. barley, buckwheat, oats, rice, quinoa, wheat), nuts, dried beans, lentils, pasta, coffee, tea
  • Produce and canned goods - fruits, vegetables, beans, tuna, soups, juices

Food Forward Bread Pasta

Prepared Foods

  • Leftovers from events and surplus foods from restaurants, caterers, hotels, and grocery store delicatessens
  • Entrees, casseroles, salads, soups, sandwiches, pre-packaged meals, bakery items

Donation Guidelines

Unprepared Foods

  • In original packaging
  • Unopened
  • Not past expiration date
  • No candy or soda
  • No home-canned foods
  • No pet food

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

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.

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.


You can also download a new app called "OLIO" to share your surplus or unwanted food with neighbors - think unopened yogurts of a flavor you thought you would like but discovered you didn't or excess baked goods that your family won't be able to eat solo.

OLIO App Photo

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.

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

Related Materials

Related Articles