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How to Donate Food and What to Donate

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

If you want to know what foods to donate to food banks, go directly to the source. Foodbank is the largest hunger relief charity in Australia. They like to think of themselves as the pantry of the charity sector. Through their endless stream of volunteers performing incredible services, Foodbank links surplus food supplies and groceries to people in need, like milk, fruit and veg, alongside other essential food items.

To give an example of how widespread Foodbank is in Australia, the 2021 Foodbank Hunger Report revealed the organisation provided 88 million meals to their charity partners in 2021 alone. Delivering more than 70% of the food rescued to food relief organisations nationwide, Foodbank works alongside several industries to supply food to vulnerable Australians, including farmers, growers, manufacturers, retailers and even schools, providing food relief to over 1 million people per month.

One of the most significant donations comes through the Foodbank Milk Program and dairy partners, who provide a million litres of fresh milk annually. Even non-dairy producers get involved, like Flight Centre, which donated 8.2 million servings of long-life milk in 2019.

Foodbank even helps divert food from landfill to hungry families, with 10,678,000 kg of food rescued from landfills in NSW and the ACT, redirected and repurposed in 2021. That same year, 88,727 emergency hampers were collected - a 486% increase on hampers delivered last year - while food donations accounted for 19,117,800 meals, with an additional 2,332,800 meals purchased to meet the growing needs.

Although 38% of Australians have never sought food relief from a charity or community organisation, those needing food assistance have increased from 59% pre-COVID-19. Alarmingly, “half of all those seeking food relief (58%) say they are seeking relief more often than last year with a further 26% seeking it just as often.” Some have even noted not seeking “food relief because they have already accessed all they are allowed to from a charity, highlighting there is more demand”.

Considering over 2 million extra meals needed to be purchased to meet demands in 2021 in NSW and the ACT, there’s clearly a need for more donations, and we’re here to help!

Discover how non-perishable food donations like our A2+ Probiotics Milk Powder can help double the food relief to over 1 million Australians every month.

What to donate to a food bank

Foodbank, and other organisations like OzHarvest, are pretty clear-cut about what they can and cannot accept as donations, making it easy for the average person to figure out what to donate to a food bank.

Born in 2004, OzHarvest is one of Australia’s leading surplus food and groceries rescue organisations. These guys can accept almost anything suitable for human consumption, as long as it’s food safe.


  • All perishable food / frozen food (including dairy, fish and meat, and fresh juice) on or before its USE BY DATE as long as it is still fit for human consumption

  • All non-perishable food, even if it is up to 3 months past BEST BEFORE DATE

  • All food items must be kept food safe until the collection.

Not Allowed:

  • Shellfish

  • Cooked rice

  • Food past USE BY DATE (except for some frozen meats)

  • Food over three months past BEST BEFORE DATE

What not to donate

While we’ve covered the requirements for both Foodbank and OzHarvest, we should mention food items that you should never donate:

  • Junk food - candy, sweetened beverages

  • Baked goods - cookies, cakes, muffins etc.

  • Items in fragile packaging, i.e. glass

  • Items in damaged or open packaging

  • Canned items that require can openers or special tools to open

  • Expired, spoiled or rotten food

  • Fresh Dairy (long-life and powdered milk are preferred)

  • Leftovers

Foods to donate to a food bank

bag of canned food

Perishable Food Donations

Below is a list of perishable and non-perishable foods to donate to food banks.

Perishable foods are usually anything that requires refrigeration, like fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, foods purchased from chill cabinets, and freshly cooked food. While some fruit and vegetables are shelf stable, they will eventually spoil.

Despite their short shelf life, perishable foods are still accepted by some food donation organisations. To help you figure out what to donate, we’ve collated a list of perishables with their shelf life when stored in the pantry, fridge or freezer, plus examples of non-perishable food donations.


  • Pantry: 4-6 days

  • Fridge: 7 days

  • Freezer: 3 months


  • Pantry: 6 months

  • Fridge: Don’t refrigerate

  • Freezer: Don’t freeze


  • Pantry: 2 years unopened and one year after opening

  • Fridge: Don’t refrigerate

  • Freezer: Don’t freeze

Fresh Milk

  • Pantry: must be refrigerated or frozen

  • Fridge: 7-10 days

  • Freezer: 3 months


  • Pantry: must be refrigerated or frozen

  • Fridge: 7-10 days

  • Freezer: 3 months


  • Beef:

    • Pantry: must be refrigerated or frozen

    • Fridge: 2 days

    • Freezer: 8 months

  • Chicken:

    • Pantry: must be refrigerated or frozen

    • Fridge: 2 days

    • Freezer: 9 months

  • Pork:

    • Pantry: must be refrigerated or frozen

    • Fridge: 2 days

    • Freezer: 6 months

  • Lamb:

    • Pantry: must be refrigerated or frozen

    • Fridge: 2 days

    • Freezer: 12 months

Fresh Produce

  • Fruit

    • Pantry: 1 week

    • Fridge: 7 days (avoid refrigerating fruit before it’s ripe)

    • Freezer: 3 months

  • Vegetables

    • Pantry: usually refrigerated or frozen

    • Fridge: 7 days

    • Freezer: 3 months

Non-Perishable Food Donations

Any food product that does not require refrigeration, special preparation, or cooking is generally considered non-perishable. These non-perishable food items are usually preferred since they can be stored for an extended period. You’ll also notice that a number of these non-perishables are canned. Just ensure it has a ring pull, as these are the best non-perishable foods to donate.

Paradoxically, non-perishable foods are also considered emergency food, so we went to the Emergency pantry list from the Queensland Government to get the facts.

Grain Foods

  • Breakfast Cereals

  • Flatbread, e.g. pita bread, lavash, tortillas, wraps

  • Wholegrain bread or dry biscuits

  • Instant rice or noodles


  • Canned fruit in natural juice

  • Dried fruit

  • 100% fruit juice


  • Starchy vegetables like canned potatoes

  • Green vegetables like canned peas, beans and asparagus

  • Orange and other vegetables, e.g. canned beetroot, carrots, corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicum, mixed vegetables

Legumes and beans

  • Canned legumes

  • Baked Beans

Nuts and seeds (unsalted)

  • Almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, seed mix, nut paste

Milk, yoghurt, and cheese

  • Long life milk or calcium-fortified soy milk

  • Powdered milk

  • Long life cheese, e.g. cheese wedges or sticks

  • Long life custard

Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs

  • Canned meat, poultry, or meat alternatives, e.g. braised steak, canned chicken, canned ham, nut meat

  • Canned fish, e.g. tuna, salmon, sardines

Long Life Milk vs Powdered Milk

Milk is an essential and recommended part of a balanced diet thanks to its nutritional abundance of vitamins and minerals. However, fresh milk bought from the store doesn’t last that long. So you can see why long-life milk and powdered milk varieties have grown in popularity, especially for food banks that need to stockpile their resources.

Long-life milk still contains the same benefits as regular milk, except that it's been specially processed to help it last longer outside a refrigerator or cooled environment.

Powdered milk also contains the same nutrients as bottled milk, only dehydrated into powder, which requires water to be reconstituted.

Although they're essentially the same product, long-life milk only lasts six months in the pantry, and once opened, it must be refrigerated to avoid going off. In comparison, powdered milk is shelf stable for up to three years in the pantry, which is six times longer.

That being said, your standard canister of powdered milk is just that, milk. While it’s no doubt a power food consumed worldwide, regular cow’s milk and its powdered versions still have a massive problem, lactose intolerance. Fortunately, there are dedicated manufacturers with a practical solution - A2 milk.

A Better Milk To Donate

Milk may be a nutritious beverage packed with protein, vitamins A, D, and B12, riboflavin, and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and iodine. But as we mentioned before, milk can only last for so long. It’s also responsible for lactose intolerance, the unfortunate gastrointestinal side effects that impact 85% of the human population that cannot digest lactose beyond childhood. Even if you’re donating long-life milk or a standard can of powdered milk, it may not be able to satisfy those in need, especially those that can’t drink dairy.

A2 milk varieties, however, do not have this problem, making it easier to digest and kinder to your stomach. While A2 milk is great, there is an even better A2 milk alternative to donate to food banks that is even more nutritious than fresh cow’s milk, has a longer shelf life, is easier to digest, and tastes great.

By donating products with a higher nutritional value, you’re doubling your efforts to help those in need with food products that sustain people for longer. The extra nutrients, vitamins, and minerals offer many health benefits and last far longer, especially in group scenarios. And unlike regular powdered milk, only 1 in 8 cows receive the NATUREDAY seal of approval, so you know it's as good for you as it is for those that receive your donation.

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