How to donate your wedding leftovers to shelters or animal rescues

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How to donate your wedding leftovers
Photo via Renegade Foods

Looking for a way to save your leftover wedding food from going to waste without having to haul it back to your house for a three-day binge? You can actually donate your unspoiled leftovers. Your caterer may already be doing it, in fact. If they're following safety standards and in communication with coordinating shelters, it can totally work.

First, a caveat: most food banks and food redistribution programs generally only accept donations of new or pre-packaged/canned foods, but you can find homeless shelters and animal rescue centers who are willing to take your fresh catering leftovers. Not every food item can be donated if it exceeds storage limitations or if the food wasn't in a controlled environment (like in an open area without refrigeration, for instance). Let's talk about how to donate your wedding leftovers.

1. If you're using a professional caterer/venue, ask if they already have a partnership with a food rescue program.
If so, you're already there! Let them know you'd like to participate and what steps you'll need to take.

2. If you're self-catering or your pro doesn't have a partnership, start Googling.
Contact a homeless or animal shelter nearby to your venue to let them know you’re interested in donating your leftover food. In most cases, the basic requirements are that the food has been refrigerated and is not more than a day old, but it varies. Make sure to contact them at least a few weeks in advance so you can keep your caterer, venue, and any wedding planners in the loop.

Online resources to get you started in the U.S.:

*Feeding America (U.S. food bank finder)
*Homeless Shelter Directory (U.S.-based homeless shelter finder)
*Great Non-Profits (U.S.-based homeless shelter finder)
* Humane Society (U.S.-based animal resuce finder)
* ASPCA (U.S.-based animal resuce finder)

3. Find a way to deliver the leftover food quickly.
If you're using a wedding planner, they may be able to arrange this for you. Otherwise you can contact a “food runner” to assist. Food runners can be found through various websites, but often your local shelter will already have relationships with some.

Disclaimer: Make sure to check your local laws for food donation safety requirements and make sure your chosen organization is in compliance with all local laws.

What organizations did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments on How to donate your wedding leftovers to shelters or animal rescues

  1. I’m confused. Why would you donate wedding reception food to an animal shelter ? I don’t think they would feed things like leftover crab rangoons or rolls to dogs & cats to begin with. Also, the ASPCA says foods such as garlic, onions, bread dough & grapes should never be given to cats & dogs

    • While that’s true, volunteers would love the nod. I work with a lot of groups and they’re constantly spending SO much money out of pocket at events trying to get a bite to eat since they devote all their time to the animals and usually don’t pay that much attention to themselves until they go from hungry to hangry.

      • Now I’m confused!
        The leftovers for the animal shelters are for the volunteers?
        I was imagining leftover ingredients like raw chicken and meat.

  2. One of my favorite memories of the day after the wedding was returning to the Synagogue the day after to make sure everything was cleaned up appropriately. We found some leftover chocolate mousse in the fridge and neither of us had gotten any on the wedding day, so we dove into that! Then we took the leftover food over to a teen-shelter (Roots, in the U-district of Seattle for the locals) and donated diner for about 25 people (we used an Indian restaurant as a caterer, and they totally gave us too much). The shelter was THRILLED to have it (and to not have to make pasta that night) and it felt good to share the joy of our wedding!

  3. We had more food than people (we had a morning service and an afternoon (11am) buffet. The Shul we got married had a soup kitchen, so any food that our guests did not want to take back to their homes or hotels we let the Shul keep the food for the soup kitchen. We did not want the food to go to waste and it helped people who needed it.

  4. Our venue missed an entire sheet cake when they were cutting them, and since we had a naked cake with frosting shots we were able to donate the cake to a local soup kitchen to be served with their lunch the next day. I will be honest, my heart sank when they told us at the end of the reception, but luckily my friends are awesome and delivered the cake for us.

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