It's there, but you don't remember. The can or jar that you bought and forgot about, hidden in the back of your shelf. "Oh," you say, "it's expired. I'll have to throw it out."

Don't throw it out - donate it.

Someone asked recently if they can donate food to our emergency pantries that has passed its “expiration date.” Yes. We will take nearly anything, with a few exceptions: you really do need to throw out rusted cans, cans dented along the seams, or baby food or infant formula that has passed the date on the can or jar.

Food can be salvaged.

On other nonperishable items, though, it is difficult to decode the labels and what appears to be a do-not-use date may simply be a “pull-date” for grocery deliveries: the item may still be safe to use, but the retailer wants it off their shelves by that date. We send our pantry staff to Island Harvest and Long Island Cares regularly for “food rescue” training to learn the intricacies of pull-dates, best-if-used-by-dates, and when-to-chuck-it dates, and they can determine if it safe to distribute donations. The state issues us a “food salvage” license.

The Rev. Dwight Wolter, pastor of Patchogue Congregational Church, had a great suggestion for his church: donate the stuff at the back of your shelf, which you probably aren't using, before it is too ancient to help someone who needs it. We’ll even take fruitcake and excess Valentine’s Day candy—and while you are pulling these from your kitchen, you might see what else you could donate.

Baby food is different.

We cannot distribute baby food or formula after they reach the expiration date, which is fairly easy to read on their labels. So please encourage parents to donate the baby food or formula that their children no longer need immediately, so that someone in need can use it. What should you do with past-date formula? Our Riverhead manager Carolyn Gumbs has found that pet shelters are often glad to receive it and can safely feed it to puppies. 

How to donate.

The LICC gladly accepts all sorts of non-perishable food. We can often take perishable donations, too, but it is best to call first to see if we have room in or refrigerators and freezers. Donations can be dropped off at our Freeport Emergency Food Center (230 Hanse Avenue, 516-868-4989). And if you have a large quantity of food to donate, we would be glad to pick it up.
New: Buy food online - it's quick and easy

You can also buy food for our food pantries through this Web site, which allows us to get as much as possible from your donation and to get the items that our neighbors need the most.
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