For week 2 of our sustainability series, we cover multiple ways to divert food waste that not only help impact your bottom line but also help serve your community.

No matter if your business is collecting food waste for donation for human use, feeding animals, or for composting, certain standards of material management must be maintained. The primary goal in all cases is to maximize food safety for items to be donated or provided to animals and to minimize vectors and odor for items to be composted or sent out as feed. 

Safely Managing Food for Donation 

Strict guidelines must be observed when handling food items to be donated to ensure the safety of those consuming the products after donation. Guidelines developed by national entities, such as Feeding America, set the standard for food safety best practices. Please reference food storage and handling guidelines in the Food Donation section. By working closely with the local food bank, reviewing all food handling and storage requirements and best practices will be essential. Reviewing practices with your local health and environmental safety inspector is important as well if there are any questions. 

Food Donation Collection Best Practices 

  • Perishable food items not maintained at safe temperatures must not be donated 
  • Always freeze or chill prepared foods immediately if you are anticipating giving it as a donation 
  • Maintain separate, clean containers for all food item types to be donated 
  • Clear, unobstructed food labeling is essential 
  • Ensure all items set aside for donation are acceptable through feeding donation partner 
  • Regularly train staff and discuss food donation needs 
  • Maintain all food safety guidelines for donated foods 
  • Ensure no liquids leak from containers 

Storing Food Waste for Feed or Composting 

In essence, food waste collected for composting or for animal feed must be managed in the same manner as trash as outlined in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code. Paying close attention to vector control and odor management is critical. The Food Code does not specifically address management of food waste and food donation. Guidance on refuse handling is outlined in the 2009/2013 FDA Food Code. City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County rely on the FDA Food Code as their reference for compliance. The rest of the state is monitored for compliance by the New Mexico Environment Department, which is currently in the process of adapting their codes to align with the FDA 2013 Food Code. 

Food Waste Container Management Best Practices 

  • Collect food waste at locations that are convenient, such as near prep and dishwashing stations. If space allows, use 64 gallon wheeled carts. For smaller spaces 5 gallon buckets or “Slim Jim” containers work well
  • Remove food waste at end of day to an outside covered food waste storage container (be aware of storage needs to discourage critters) 
  • Waste containers must not be used for any other purpose 
  • If stored in a cooler (ensure container for compost is covered, is well labeled and in a designated location) 
  • Rinse all collection containers between uses 
  • Ensure items set aside for composting match what the local composter has been registered to manage
  • Provide signage of what can and cannot go into compost containers, ensuring clear, concise, bi-lingual and relevant 
  • Host regular staff trainings to address concerns and logistical issues – encourage staff buy-in 
  • Consider switching to compostable serviceware where possible. This can be added to the compost collection and may reduce contamination issues 
  • Work with your local composter to set a regular pick-up schedule that minimizes odor and vector nuisances
  • Ensure no liquids leak from containers  

Large-Scale Special Events 

  • To evaluate the possibility of managing excess food for donation from large temporary events, contact your local food bank and environmental health department for guidance. 
  • Food waste collection for composting is another possibility and is best conducted in partnership with your local food waste collections entity to receive guidance on collection best practices (see Diverting Food Waste for Composting section). 


For more information on food safety, collection practices for donating and composting and environmental health, please contact your local inspector. Your local food bank or feeding partner will be able to advise on food donation best practices as well.