Food Donation

Find a food bank or meal program near you and work with them directly to ensure donations work for both parties involved.

Licensed food establishments can donate food that has not been served such as:

  • Commercially packaged foods
  • Surplus menu and deli items prepared and handled with the same consideration for safety as food sold to customers
  • Fresh fruit, vegetables and protein
  • Perishable foods past the manufacturer’s "sell by" (or "best if used by") date – but not food past a "use by" date

Acceptable food from home:

  • home-grown fruits and vegetables
  • packaged shelf-stable goods

Food banks and meal programs cannot accept food prepared in home kitchens.

Important: Follow Washington State protocols for safe food handling including storage and transportation.


Why donate food?

Ensure food doesn't go to waste. In the United States, as much as 40% of food produced for people is wasted. While many grocery stores, restaurants and institutions donate their surplus, food businesses are still major contributors to our waste stream.

When food isn't eaten, all of the land, water, labor, capital, chemical inputs, and energy that was used to produce, transport and sell that food is wasted too. When food goes to landfills, it decays, producing methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. However, when businesses donate good surplus food, they are using the food at its highest value - for people who don’t have enough to eat and lead healthy lives.

Help Address Hunger. 1 in 8 people face hunger in Western Washington and 1 in 5 are children. Food service businesses have daily opportunities to help address food insecurity by donating safe, edible surplus food. Seattle's network of food banks and meal providers accept a range of shelf-stable and perishable food to address the needs of children and adults in our city while meeting Washington State Department of Health code requirements.

Receive tax deductions. Internal Revenue Code 170(e)(3) provides enhanced tax deductions to businesses to encourage donations of fit and wholesome food to qualified nonprofit organizations serving people in need. Qualified business taxpayers can deduct the cost to produce the food and half the difference between the cost and full fair market value of the donated food. Contact a tax preparer for questions and guidance.

You are legally protected. The Washington Good Samaritan law (RCW 69.80.031) and the Federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (PL104-210) protect individuals and businesses from being held liable if food is donated in good faith that donors believe to be safe and edible.


Compost food unsuitable for donation

Remove packaging first, then compost the following:

  • Perishable foods past a "use by" date (or freeze and consume later)
  • Food served to a customer
  • Foods in soiled containers, in sharply dented or rusty cans, or in opened or torn containers
  • Unpasteurized milk
  • Foods with an "off" odor; spoiled foods; foods that have been temperature abused
  • Home canned, vacuum-packed or pickled foods
  • Foods prepared, cooked, cooled, or reheated at home (except for baked goods)

Remember: Keep in mind that hunger relief organizations must follow Seattle’s composting and recycling requirements and pay for disposal just like businesses and residents. If you donate food that isn’t safe or edible, the food bank or meal program must then bear the burden of removing packaging and composting this food.


Related links

Food Rescue Innovation - Help us discover what might be possible.


Public Utilities

Andrew Lee, General Manager and CEO
Address: 700 5th Avenue, Suite 4900, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34018, Seattle, WA, 98124-5177
Phone: (206) 684-3000

Newsletter Updates


Sign up for the latest updates from Public Utilities

Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) is comprised of three major direct-service providing utilities: the Water Utility, the Drainage and Wastewater Utility, and the Solid Waste Utility.