This time of year people who enjoy gardening are thinking about and planning what they will be growing this spring, summer and fall. I know this because I am one of those who has already purchased some of my seeds, and planting time is still a ways off yet. Many gardeners like to donate to food pantries.

If you are one of those generous gardeners, Michigan State University Extension has eight tips to help you provide high-quality produce to food banks and pantries.

  1. garden vegetables in basketIt is important to check with the food bank or pantry before delivering any produce. Find out if they accept produce at their site and if they do, ask if they need the type of produce you have to donate.
  2. Always handle the fresh fruits and vegetables safely to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. For example, don’t harvest when you are sick and always wash your hands before harvesting
  3. Offer only high quality, freshly picked fruits and vegetables.
  4. Do not donate fruits and vegetables that are overripe, have mold, bruising, spoilage or insect damage.
  5. If you use pesticides in your garden, always read and follow the label instructions.
  6. Harvest produce early in the morning.
  7. Wipe as much mud and dirt as possible off of the produce but do not rinse the produce. Rinsing the produce takes off some of the natural protective coating and will cause the produce to spoil sooner than if it wasn’t rinsed.
  8. Do not mix different kinds of produce. For example, don’t put cucumbers in the same clean, food grade container as green beans.

Those who donate food to food banks and pantries are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. This federal act protects those who donate produce from their garden, and those who donate grocery products, to nonprofit organizations for distribution to people in need, from criminal and civil liability.

Under terms of this Act, donors are protected, if the products were donated in good faith but later caused harm to the recipient. It also standardizes donor liability exposure and sets a floor of gross negligence or intentional misconduct for people who donate grocery products.

If you will be donating produce this year from your garden, thank you for providing safe, nutritious food to those who might otherwise go without.

Michigan State university Extension logoThis article by Jeannie Nichols was originally published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit To contact an expert in your area, visit, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).