Standard Operating Procedures for Food Rescue and Recovery

For Food Donor Partners

For Food Donor Partners

Food Connection welcomes your fresh food donations! Wondering whether your food can be donated? Check out our guidelines below.

Food donations we accept:

  • Freshly prepared meals (meat proteins, plant-based proteins, vegetables, starches, etc.) in servings of 18 or more.

Food donations we don’t accept:

  • Food that has been served
  • Food from a personal residence
  • Bread or desserts unaccompanied with protein-rich meals
  • Packaged foods (for donations of canned/boxed/packaged/shelf-stable groceries, please consider MANNA FoodBank in Buncombe County and Second Harvest FoodBank of Metrolina  in Mecklenburg County).

Preparation for donation:

  • Food donors should follow the policies and procedures of their own institutions, in accordance with local laws and regulations, as it relates to the handling and storing of donated food.
  • Pack food donations for pick-up in aluminum pans with lids or other containers with a closed lid. 
  • Label food donations for pick-up with the following, minimum information: donor name, item description, date prepared, and use-by date.
  • Depending on what’s been arranged with Food Connection, call in a pick-up or store for your already established pick-up day.

For more information and to discuss the requirements of coming on board as a Food Donor Partner, please contact your local Food Connection location. 

For Food Recipient Partners

We are grateful for the opportunity to support our Food Recipient Partners by connecting them to high-quality, freshly-prepared meals. Food Recipient Partners must have the following in place to begin receiving food:

  • Cold Storage: A refrigerator or freezer on the premises where the food will be served/distributed. Don’t have cold storage? Let us know and we may be able to help!
  • Designated Contact: A staff member or volunteer who will work with Food Connection to determine food needs, delivery schedules, and general operations.
  • Food Safety Plan: Food recipient partners should follow the policies and procedures of their own institutions, in accordance with local laws and regulations, as it relates to the handling, storing, and serving of donated food.

To learn more about the process and discuss becoming approved as a Food Connection Food Donor Recipient, please contact your city!

For Volunteer Drivers

We are grateful for our volunteer drivers, who make “food connections” possible. Prior to a Food Connection volunteer completing their first pick-up/delivery, the volunteer must:

  • Receive hands-on training from Food Connection staff (or an approved, lead volunteer) on how to execute a successful pick-up and delivery.
  • Agree to and understand the importance of immediately moving the food from Donor Location to Recipient Location, with no stops in between.
  • Review and sign off on any required Volunteer Best Practices materials.

Interested in becoming a Food Connection volunteer in your city? Let us hear from you!


The short answer: Yes, it is safe and legal to donate prepared food! 

The long answer: Please visit our extensive page of food donor liability resources here.

Tax Incentives for food donors

In addition to helping ease hunger in your own community, there are tax incentives for food donors. There is no North Carolina tax incentive for food donation. However, North Carolina businesses are eligible for federal tax incentives. As of 2015, all businesses are eligible for the general and enhanced tax deductions for food donations.

Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics



  • Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature was above 90 °F).
  • Place food into shallow containers and immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.
  • Use most cooked leftovers within 3 to 4 days. (See Food Safety Basics link below)
  • Reheat leftovers to 165 °F.


  • Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F).
  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below.
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days.
  • Perishable food such as meat and poultry should be wrapped securely to maintain quality and to prevent meat juices from getting onto other food.
  • To maintain quality when freezing meat and poultry in its original package, wrap the package again with foil or plastic wrap that is recommended for the freezer.
  • In general, high-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple can be stored unopened on the shelf for 12 to 18 months. Low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables will keep 2 to 5 years-if the unopened can remains in good condition and has been stored in a cool, clean, and dry place. Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusted.

United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service