Items from Food Pantry

Updated on May 10, 2012
M.2. asks from Downers Grove, IL
15 answers

My neighbors have hit hard times and are currently getting a majority of their food items from the local food pantry. They say they get an over-abundance of food that the two of them could never eat so they bring a few boxes of items over for my family - mainly cereal, macaroni and cheese, pudding, brown rice to name a few items - well all of the expiration dates on these items are from 2011. I am very picky with the food that I give to my family (I'm a name brand junkie) and I've told my neighbors numerous times to keep their food items but they just won't listen so they leave them on our back deck. I hate to just throw this food away but is it really still good with these old expiration dates? Also, is it normal for a food pantry to give expired foods out? I'm wondering if maybe my neighbors are weeding through their stock and passing the old, expired stuff our way?

If the food is still good I'm going to start putting it in the food pantry donation box at church!

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Chicago on

My sister goes to a food pantry and they do not give out expired foods. When they have packaged foods or fruits and veggies that are getting close or wilting, they ask if the person would like extra to get rid of it so it is not thrown out. My mom also visits one when she needs a bit extra and same thing. When we donate through school or some activity we attend, we are asked to please not donate expired items since they cannot be given out.

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Sacramento on

No, if it's expired, it should be thrown out. I can't believe a food pantry doesn't check the dates. Poor people shouldn't have to eat expired food any more than rich people.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Expiration dates are put on **by the manufacturer**.

You have to use your own judgement, but many dry goods stay good long after the suggested expiration date.

If you don't want them, I think you have a great idea in redonating! :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Expiration dates are just a government program run amuck.

When King Tut's tomb was discovered, they found wheat in the tomb. According to the USDA that wheat was CENTURIES out of date. But scientists used that wheat and grew it. They cross polinated the wheat they discovered with modern varieties to give our modern wheat more disease resistance and better drought resistance.

How do you get sharp cheddar cheese? You age mild cheddar cheese. Whiskey is allowed to get old and is then considered better. Wine is said to grow better with age.

The expiration dates on rice or just about any food stuff is for the ignorant. Those with wisdom know rice will last 20 years or more on the shelf if stored correctly. Even though the expiration dates will show that the rice is "bad" after a few months.

My wife and I were invited over to a friends house for dinner. Right after we got there she pulled four t-bone steaks out of her freezer. She looked at the best-if-used-by dates (formerly called expiration dates) and saw that they expired yesterday. She threw those steaks in the trash and made her husband go and by 4 more "fresh" steaks.

I have eaten "expired" food all my life. And if people could read the codes on their cans of food, gum, and boxes of snacks, almost all families that have food in their pantries have "expired" food.

I was told this was Samuel Clemmons, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. Its what you know for sure that just ain't so that gets you into trouble."

I've packaged rice and stored it for 20 years with no problem. I've stored wheat for almost 40 years with no problem. I've seen wrigleys gum on the shelf that was 10 years out of date and it tasted fine. I made taco salad and burritos for my family. The cheese, meat and tortillas came from my freezer. Expiration dates came up as a topic of conversdation at the dinner table. Some of my in-laws said they would never eat anything with an expired date on it and could tell immediately if anything they ate was out of date. After dinner, I dug the wrappers out of the trash to check the expiration dates. The frozen tortillas were just 3 months out of date. The meat and cheese were 4 and 6 years out of date. The salsa was about a year out of date. Not one of the "I could tell if it was out of date" people said anything about what they ate. They even had seconds.

My rule of thumb is to look at the dates on the newest products. If the date is 6 months beyond todays' date, then I know it can stay on the shelf for at least 12 months.

The expiration date is just another government program run amock. Do you really believe the government knows if the food in your pantry is ok or not ok to eat? There is no way I believe the government is that smart.

Good luck to you and yours. (BTW, the charcoal I use in my BBQ grill has expired too!)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Double check that what you are looking at is actually an expiration date. Staple items like rice etc don't usually have an expiration date, they often have a packed date or sometimes a best if used by date. A best if used by does not mean it is bad. And a packaged date is very far from an expiration date. If you're not sure what it is you're looking at call the manufacturer and ask.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

It really depends on what it is. Dates on dried pasta, rice, mac & cheese even cereal have more to do with best flavor / texture than safety. There is nothing wrong with eating those foods. Where dates really matters in on foods that must be refidgerated such as dairy, eggs, meat, etc.

When if comes to brand name vs. generic it's more about taste than safety. There are many things I've learned are just as good (sometimes better as far as I'm concerned) than brand name. Like canned tomatoes, potato chips, cookies for the kids, milk, OJ, etc. But other things i just prefer brand name like tuna, tomatoe sauce, pasta, bread.

I suspect that grocery stores and big box stores are giving away food items that get close to expiration since they are tough to sell - but still perfectly safe to eat and your neighbors don't want to throw out things they won't use. I know that many food pantries don't allow you to choose what you want - they just distribute pre-pakages bags/boxes of food.

As to what to do with the stuff they give you - I have no idea!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Stores can't sell the food after the expiration date, which is why they usually mark it down as it nears expiration, but they can donate it. Same with the manufacturers. And with food pantry donations down everywhere most of what is donated is close to or past the expiration dates, so lots of what is handed out is already expired, quite normal. Remember, these are charitable organizations, they're trying to help, not obligated to.

While people won't necessarily get sick from eating expired food, its freshness and nutrient value may be diminished, but some of it is still edible, and probably considered more nutritious than nothing.

"Unprocessed" pantry foods - pastas (the mac and cheese), cereal, baking mixes, dry beans, grains (the brown rice), and nuts are safe to eat if they have been stored unopened, and these shelf stable foods should be good to eat indefinitely unless the packaging has been damaged.

"Processed" pantry foods are also considered shelf stable because they have either been heat treated (canned foods), are a dry formulation (cake and pudding mixes), or have reduced water content (dried foods, crackers). The quality should also be fine until opened unless there are cracks at the seams or they are bulging, signs of the Botulism bacteria.

And, are you aware that the only things federal law mandates be labeled with expiration dates are baby formula and some baby food items? Some states mandate including dairy items as well, but not all. All the others are voluntarily put there by the various manufacturers to help us.

I doubt your neighbors are giving you their older items, just items they've received and will not use. Knowing their needs they probably are just trying to help you out. Donate the items to your church food pantry box, with 1 in 5 American children going to bed hungry, they will be put to use.
This site /\ lays out all the various labeling dates: expiration, sell by, use by, etc.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Asheville on

Our local food pantries do not accept or give expired food of any kind. They can always tell the pantry that they do not need certain items as often and they would like to leave them there for others that could use extra.
How to stop giving them to you is a more difficult problem.
Most food is still good far after the expiration date.
Eggs for instance- to determine if an egg is no longer edible, place it in a bowl of water that covers the egg by about an inch. If it sits on the bottom, it is good. If it floats, do not eat it. If it stands on end, it's up to you, but I don't eat them then.
All canned goods are still good for far, far after the date. If it's frozen and not freezer burnI will even use it for up to a year later. So will my mom and my SIL. Dry goods, if never opened (therefore not stale) are fine for a while. The ones that make me nervous are things like dry pasta. I would feel better if they were in a plastic bag and sealed not just loose in a box that can bulge and let bugs in to crawl on the food. Blech.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Just google food calendars and expiration dates, they are very thourough and will give you a range of time most foods and dry goods are okay to eat and how long to store them.

But as a general rule, most foods labeled "Best by" are good for a couple of months to years past that date depending on the food. If the food says "Use by," get rid of it if it's past due date. Canned goods are fine for up to 3-5 years past their date if they have no bulging or dents. Frozen items are good up to a year if they are sealed properly.



answers from Chicago on

We had to use a food pantry last year and everything was expired......non-perishable items, no problem. But some of the dairy either we couldn't eat fast enough or it already started to taste "sour". So I would say use the nonperishable (or donate) and throw the perishable if you aren't going to use it as its' shelf life at this point would be too short to pass along again.



answers from New York on

Expiration dates are just a guideline. Many products will loose nutrient value or won't be as good as usually, but will not hurt you in any way. I once used a cake mix that had an expiration date of 9 months earlier. The cake didn't rise.

No, it is not normal for a food pantry to give out expired food. Most of them will check the dates when they stock the shelves, but a lot of the food they receive may have a short shelf life remaining.

My suggestion if you're not going to use the item is to throw it out is expired. Donate it if it's not expired.



answers from Chicago on

I have volunteered at the local food pantry and their policy is to give food that is 6 months past the expiration date. And food that is even farther than that is placed on a rack by the front door with a note that it is expired but you can take it. So yes, they do hand it out.



answers from Boston on

I always call the manufacturer about expiration dates. For example, Nestle has different lengths of "it's still safe to eat" for their chocolate chips versus their butterscotch bits. Often it's about diminishing taste, not safety. But I always call to be sure. Use the 800 number on the side of the package or check out the website.

Our food pantries do not distribute food beyond expiration dates.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I can tell you that yes, the food we normally get is past the date. I think that's perhaps why it was used for the poor.

It makes me mad too. I am a picky eater when it comes to expiration dates so I don't even look anymore. If the food tastes okay I eat it and am thankful to have it since I would rather not be hungry. The kids eat first then hubby since he is diabetic. I often go without and just eat a bit of bread or something no one else wants. Hubby does more of the cooking because I would throw all the food out they give us that is expired.

It seems funny to me they can give it out but stores are legally prohibited from having out of date items on their shelves at all.



answers from Provo on

Personally I can usually tell the difference in taste or performance of foods past their expiration. I just got tired of being disappointed so I follow the expiration dates pretty closely. Cake mixes crumble and taste funny, tomato sauces begin to taste like the can, cereal and crackers become stale, bread gets too dry or moldy, flour becomes stale and some recipes just don't turn out right. I've just had too many disappointments trying to cook with expired food so I don't bother. I pass on or toss it out. I have known farmers to collect expired food for their animals through my local group.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions