Food Donation


A Donated Food Distributing Organization (DFDO) is a food establishment that is a charitable nonprofit organization under Section 501(c) of the federal Internal Revenue Code that distributes food free of charge to the needy. Our goal when working with DFDOs in our county is to create a partnership. We want to be a resource to increase food safety for those in our community that benefit from these DFDOs. 

DFDOs are not required to pay for a permit and do not receive regular visits, but they are required to meet food safety regulations. Part of meeting the food safety regulations is turning in a notification packet with the DFDO plan of operation for the year. Annual Notification Packets can be emailed to

We offer food safety consultations to DFDOs. We can come out and go through your plan of operations, look at your facility and equipment or give food safety guidance. Additional guidance can be found in our Safe Receiving Guide, DFDO Repackaging Guide and DFDO Date Marking Guide. If you are interested in a food safety consultation, or have any questions, email

We have a Donated Food Safety Newsletter to inform you of any big changes or new concepts that apply to food donation facilities. 


The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act offers food donors protection from criminal and civil liability that could stem from illness or injury caused from food or other grocery products that have been donated to those in need if the foods and products donated are “apparently wholesome”. This means the donor follows food safety standards and handles the food correctly. The act does not release donors or hunger relief agencies from the duty of acting responsibly. Use good judgement and diligence to make sure food is safe and wholesome.


Food establishments that are considering donating food should read through the following steps to donating food properly:

  • Make sure that your business can donate food safely. Assess your capacity to store foods in a freezer, commercial refrigerator or in your dry storage areas away from heat, pests and other sources of contamination. Foods donated must be in a food-grade package, cannot have been previously served to a customer and, if it requires temperature control for safety (perishable foods), it must have been held at proper temperatures throughout the lifespan of the food.
  • Partner with a local DFDO to find out what foods they need.
  • Package food safely and always maintain proper food temperatures.
  • Transport food safely in a clean vehicle, which can maintain proper temperatures if necessary.
  • Maintain detailed records of food handling activities, storage and transport conditions.

For more details on these steps and what foods are safe to donate, use our Donation Guide for Businesses. There are also tax incentives for food donation.


Hunger relief organizations (DFDOs) cannot accept home-prepared meals, except for home-baked breads or confections that do not require refrigeration for safety. Please only donate pre-packaged, commercially prepared foods.

When thinking of donating, consider the following food safety tips: 

  1. Review the foods that are acceptable to donate in our Donation Guide for Homes.
  2. Contact your local DFDO to find out what kinds of food they are accepting right now, and how you can deliver the donation to them. 
  3. Inspect all of your goods to make sure the original packaging and the food inside is clean and in good condition, the items are not past their “USE BY” date (if applicable) and the food does not require refrigeration for safety. 
  4. If necessary, make sure all food packages have a label indicating the name of the food, the original processer/manufacturer and any common allergens that could be present. 
  5. Transport food in a clean container to prevent cross contamination. If the food is frozen, transport it in a clean and insulated container to maintain temperatures. 
  6. Be prepared to share information about the food and how it was kept safe with the receiving organization.

For more details on food donation safety, go to the Washington State Department of Health website. For more information on handling food safely, look through the state food worker manual.

Even more important than donating food, think about volunteering with a local hunger relief organization. The gift of your time and energy will go even farther to help our community.