Food safety is of primary concern to Second Harvest Foodbank, to your agency and to the people you serve. Here are some general rules that protect both the food you distribute and the guests you’re serving:


Many people are confused about how long to keep a product after its date has passed. It can be difficult to help people understand the food is safe, given all the advertising that tries to convince us otherwise so we’ll dump the “old” food and continue to buy more. 

Some foods received by Second Harvest Foodbank are past date. For most types of foods, this means that they may have past their peak nutritional value and taste at that time, but remain safe to eat when stored properly.

Below are some resources to help you in the critical role of helping your clients understand expiration dates.

  • Food Date Guidelines, provides broad and basic food extension guidelines for common food categories
  • Keep or Toss 2020, a publication put together by UW Extension regarding distributing and using shelf stable donated products
  • Foodkeeper App, developed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute.
  • USDA Fact Sheet provides important information about product dating.
  • UW Extension Food Safety website is packed with info and links to the USDA site, with even more links and tips.
  • Storage Times for Refrigerator and Freezer (Spanish), food safety at a glance, guidelines for freezer storage are for quality only.