7 steps on how to donate food properly and sustainable

September 1, 2022

Food waste is a massive problem for the environment. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), estimates that food waste is the third-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, we waste 1.3 gigatons of edible food, which is equivalent to 3.3 gigatons of CO₂ equivalent (CO₂e). Thus, 1 kg of food waste is exactly 2.53846 kg of CO₂ equivalent (CO₂e). 

According to data from the German Federal Statistical Office, which was calculated on the basis of EU requirements for the reference year 2020, around 78 kilograms of food waste per capita and year-end up in the waste of private households in Germany. This means reducing your personal food waste is a massive contributor to a (more) climate-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.

One option to do so is by donating leftover food. This does not only provide food waste but makes sure that the one to whom the food was donated, does not need to buy even more food himself.

It positively impacts the environment and also helps to tackle another big problem: hunger. Even in Germany, the 4th richest country in the world (McKinsey & Co), there is hunger, or at least food poverty. Especially among people who are at risk of poverty and/or receive transfer payments. That was six million people in 2020, and almost two million of them are children.

In this article, you will find 2 methods on how to tackle hunger and safe food waste in your area.

Method 1: Donating food directly 

Step 1: Discover what institutions in your area accept donations

There are many ways to donate food in your area. You can either look for dedicated institutions, and initiatives of major social associations or find different solutions through friends and the internet. Below, we listed just a few options on how to donate food that you will no longer eat.

Social institutions or initiatives of the major social associations: Probably one of the first things that come to mind, when speaking about donating food, is to give it to dedicated institutions. Those institutions are dedicated especially to helping those in need, in fighting hunger. Next to those organizations, most of the major social associations, like Caritas or Red Cross, also have initiatives dedicated to fighting hunger. Utilize online resources or check in magazines to find organizations close to your location. Some well-known organizations include: Tafel, Caritas, Volkssolidarität, Red Cross, AWO and Diakonie. You can also check their websites directly, to see if they offer any locations in your area.

Swap food with friends and neighbors: Honestly, one of the easiest things you can do, if you got leftover food, is to just give it to friends, roommates, or family members. This is especially important if you have a neighbor or family member who is out of work or recovering from an illness. A typical thing also is to buy too much food close to a trip or vacation and not get to eat all of it before. In those cases, ask your roommates, for example, if they would like to use the groceries that you no longer want or did not get to eat.

Food rescue platforms: There is an increasing amount of platforms that are dedicated to eradicating food waste and providing portals for people to share leftover food with others. One example is Foodsharing.de a community, where people share food they no longer eat with other people.

Internet portals: Big internet portals meanwhile also provide a space to give food away, which is still good but no longer needed. You can try on various pages or communities on Facebook, check out eBay, or, if you live in Germany, try nebenan.de.

Step 2: Find out what can be donated

The next step is to figure out which foods are best suited for being donated. For social institutions, there is sometimes a shortage of one type of food and an abundance of others. For that, make sure to check their website and the necessities before you make your donation.
Below we have listed foods that are generally suited for donations and foods that are not. Please note that this can vary, depending on the institution you choose to donate your food.

Foods Suitable for Donation

Home-Prepared Foods: Homemade baked goods that do not need refrigeration to remain safe, may be received. Examples of those are:

  • cookies
  • cakes
  • fruit pies
  • loaves of bread

Commercially Packaged Foods Not Needing Refrigeration: Donation of commercially canned, boxed, and otherwise packaged foods is usually encouraged. Examples:

  • Peanut butter
  • Canned soup
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned stew
  • Canned fish
  • Canned beans
  • Pasta (most prefer whole grain)
  • Rice (most prefer brown rice)

Fresh Produce Donations: In some places, the donation of fresh produce is encouraged. These include either fresh store produce or home-grown fruits and vegetables.

Foods Unsuitable for Donation

Here is a list of foods that generally are unsuitable for donation:

  • Home canned, vacuum-packed, or pickled foods.
  • Foods in soiled containers.
  • Perishable foods past a “use by” date, unless frozen.
  • Foods in sharply dented or rusty cans.
  • Foods in opened or torn containers, expose food to potential contamination.
  • Unpasteurized milk.
  • Foods with an “off” odor.
  • Foods prepared, cooked, cooled, or reheated at home (except for baked goods).

Step 3: Gather the items you plan to donate & check out the integrity of the packaging

Many good candidates for donation can be found in your pantry. In addition to that, you can ask friends or family members to join in and donate their leftover food as well. Before giving the food to donation, check out the expiration dates on the food. You do not want to donate food that is past or nearing its expiration date. Also, do not donate any heavily dented cans, boxes that are crushed, or anything leaking. By checking items before donating, you can save donation centers a lot of time.

Step 4: Deliver and handle the food safely

After you collected all your items and found a destination, where you can donate food, it is time to deliver the goods. Below are some points you should keep in mind, to make sure the donated food is delivered and handled safely.

Food Storage: Dry goods, canned food, and fresh produce should be stored away from pests, pets, and household chemicals. Packaged food should be donated in its original, unopened packaging with its original labels.

Food Transportation: Temperature control and prevention of cross-contamination are important food safety measures while transporting food. Potentially hazardous foods that need to be kept hot or cold need to be transported quickly in insulated containers that protect against contamination (see below).

Potentially Hazardous Foods: Certain foods, called potentially hazardous foods, let bacteria grow quickly. It is important to keep these foods at safe temperatures to prevent bacteria from growing. Potentially hazardous foods include items such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, tofu, all cooked vegetables (including cooked beans, rice, and potatoes), seed sprouts, sliced melons, and garlic and other fresh herbs in oil mixtures.

Prevent cross-contamination: Store raw meats below other foods, away from washed, ready-to-eat produce. Thoroughly wash and sanitize surfaces that have touched raw meats and poultry. Wash hands often, especially after handling raw meats.

Drop off food at the right times: Many institutions only collect items on certain days and times. Make sure to check, what times work best for your chosen institutions, to avoid unnecessary transport of the food.

Method 2: Helping the hungry without direct food donations

Step 5: Donate your money or property

If you want to fight hunger globally and also reach people outside your local communities: Donating money is the easiest way to reach those farthest away from you. Some tips on finding charities that are legitimate. They…

  • have Tax-ID numbers,
  • must register annually with the IRS and applicable state governments,
  • should have a way of donating to them that is NOT exclusively by cash, gift card, or wire transfer,
  • must be able to provide tax receipts for donations and they
  • should tell you what donations will be used for.

Some charities that focus specifically on fighting world hunger, are World Food Programme, Heifer International, Action Against Hunger, The Hunger Project, Rise Against Hunger, World Central Kitchen, Welthungerhilfe, Mercy Corps, and Bread for the World.

Step 6: Donate your time

If you want to rather get active yourself, there are many volunteer opportunities at the various institutions feeding the hungry. Even if you live in an area that counts as developed and has no citizens directly at risk of starvation, there are many who struggle to maintain a regular and balanced diet for themselves and their families. The work is suitable for people of any age with any health concerns, and often the work is fun and described as really rewarding. Duties range from sorting fresh produce to serving food at pantries, and many more.

Step 7: Live climate-friendly

Climate change affects the global food system in such a way that those who already suffer from hunger and undernutrition are those most vulnerable to losing more as the climate crisis continues. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that roughly one-third of the food produced by farmers is lost between the field and the market in low- and middle-income countries. The more the climate changes and the more extreme climate events happen, the more food we lose while harvesting on an annual basis. 

In order to end hunger, we therefore all need to address climate change and live as climate-friendly as we can. Next to donating your leftover food, to prevent food waste, there are many other aspects of a sustainable diet. Reducing meat and dairy consumption as much as you can, buying food locally and checking for sustainable labels, or buying organic are just a few options. Your Clime app will help you, furthermore, to ramp up your sustainability efforts and all aspects of your life.


Whether you just want to avoid wasting food, you want to help people in need, or fight global hunger: As we showed, there are many ways to donate food and fight hunger. You can donate food that you will either no longer eat or that has simply accumulated in your pantry over a longer period of time, through social institutions, via several virtual platforms, or just by giving it to roommates, friends, co-workers, or family members. If you want to go one step further, take action directly in an institution in your area that helps people struggling with hunger, or donate to one or more charities of your choice. Besides that, climate change proposes one of the biggest challenges for those who are already hungry. Living as climate-friendly as you can, therefore, is a no-brainer. If you need help or a gentle nudge occasionally to upgrade your climate-friendly lifestyle, we are here to help. Just check your Clime account and find helpful tips, personalized reduction measures, and many more.

Start your journey with Clime today!

And benefit from a more sustainable culture and happy employees.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.