Skip to content

12 Things to Never Donate to a Food Drive

From coat drives to toy drives, winter 'tis the season to be generous. But not everything that's collecting dust in your home should be a candidate for the donation box—especially when it comes to food.

After learning about the office food drive, you probably went on a hunt to see which unwanted items you could find hiding in the depths of your pantry. And while that box of white rice may seem like the perfect donation item, we urge you to reconsider.

Just as you wouldn't donate a broken Barbie to a toy drive, you should think twice before donating subpar groceries to a food drive. According to a report in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor & Underserved, the food provided to the homeless living in shelters is generally high in fat, low in fiber, and void of the nutrients they need to sustain good health. It's a shame, really, when it's just as easy for all of us to give wholesome donations as unhealthy ones.

But the issue isn't that we're all cold-hearted and lazy. It's that the majority of folks have no idea that they're donating food that's doing more harm than good. That's why Eat This, Not That! made it our mission this holiday season to spread awareness around our office building about the best and worst foods to donate to the needy. And to help our officemates put awareness into action, we teamed up with Bai, RxBar, and Quinn Snacks, to host a healthy food drive at our New York headquarters. But no matter where you live, you have the opportunity to donate smart. There are food pantries and families all across our nation that can benefit from healthy staples! Read on to find out which foods you should donate and which are better off left out the box this holiday season!

Peanut Butter

Donate This: All natural peanut butter (free of hydrogenated oil and added sugars)

Not That!:Conventional peanut butter (has sugar and hydrogenated oil)

Rice and Pasta

Donate This: Whole grain pasta, legume-based pasta (these are some of our go-tos), brown rice, quinoa

Not That!: White pasta, white rice

Canned Veggies

Donate This: Low Sodium Vegetables

Not That!: Salt added vegetables


Donate This: Canned fruits (in natural juice)

Not That!: Canned fruits (in syrup)


Donate This: Low-sugar granola bars (less than 10 grams added sugar/bar), trail mix (no salt or sugar added), air popped popcorn (no added butter or fats)

Not That!: Cookies, fruit snacks, chips


Donate This: Low-sodium canned soup (less than 600 mg/serving)

Not That!: Conventional soup

Hot Beverages

Donate This: Green tea

Not That!: Hot cocoa mix

Cereal & Oats

Donate This: Low sugar cereal (less than 6 grams/cup), plain rolled or steel-cut oats

Not That!: Sugary cereal, flavored instant oatmeal

Eat This, Not That!
Inspired by The New York Times best-selling book series, Eat This, Not That! is a brand that's comprised of an award-winning team of journalists and board-certified experts, doctors, nutritionists, chefs, personal trainers, and dietitians who work together to bring you accurate, timely, informative, and actionable content on food, nutrition, dieting, weight loss, health, wellness, and more. Read more about Eat This