A Complete Guide To Donating and Volunteering for Thanksgiving

In a few weeks, families across America will come together to share a Thanksgiving meal. For many of us, we think of a grand feast with turkey, sides, and dessert. But, many people do not have the food they need to thrive, and this is especially challenging during the holidays.


You can help neighbors in your community enjoy a Thanksgiving meal this season by donating and volunteering. Here’s how to do it.

Where to Donate Food for Thanksgiving

Food should be donated to your local food pantry or food bank. Northern Illinois Food Bank works with over 900 food pantries, mobile food truck markets, and soup kitchens, including My Pantry Express.


For those unsure of where to find a local food bank or pantry, Feeding America offers a convenient tool to locate nearby options. 


Once you’ve located your local food pantry or food bank, you can find information about how, when, and where to drop off food. Food banks may also have specific requests for foods they need and foods they may not accept.

Thanksgiving food donations
Boxed mash potatoes

Thanksgiving Foods You Can Donate

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for food banks. Healthy, non-perishable food items are always great to donate to food banks, but they are in even higher demand around the holidays.

Here are some Thanksgiving foods you can donate:

What to Avoid Donating for Thanksgiving

Because food banks need to ensure that all the food they provide is safe, they cannot accept Thanksgiving turkeys or leftovers from holiday meals. Instead, food banks work with restaurants, caterers, and manufacturers to gather and donate leftover food that is guaranteed to be fresh and safe for families in need. You may think that fresh produce is a good food to donate because it’s healthy, but it’s better to avoid donating highly perishable items. Food banks can work with farmers and corporate partners to help bring fresh produce to families before it goes bad. Other items to avoid donating are food nearing its expiration date and foods very high in fat or sugar.

How to Volunteer for Thanksgiving

To help distribute food to families in need during Thanksgiving, contact your local food pantry or food bank to learn how you can volunteer there. At My Pantry Express, we have 10 different locations with volunteer opportunities in Northern Illinois. Each of our food pick-up sites needs five to ten volunteers to greet neighbors, collect their orders from the truck, and load them into their cars. You can volunteer whatever free time you have—just one shift or one day—or you can choose to volunteer every week. There is no long-term commitment.

Thanksgiving volunteer

Benefits of Volunteering for Thanksgiving

Volunteers are essential in helping fight hunger in every community, and being a volunteer can have a positive impact on your own life.


Here are some top benefits of volunteering.

Help Alleviate Hunger This Holiday Season With My Pantry Express

My Pantry Express needs your help in getting food to those who need it this Thanksgiving season. If you want to get in the spirit of service, pick up a volunteer shift today, and contact us if you have any questions. In addition to volunteering, we also need donations of food to give as many people as possible the Thanksgiving dinner they deserve. Make a difference and donate today.