Sweet Ways to Donate Your Halloween Haul to Those in Need

Halloween Candy Buy Back Operation Gratitude

Got a Halloween candy hangover? Parents across the country are wondering how they're going to get rid of all that candy their kids brought home. Some of it will be eaten, sure, but just one look at the amount of calories in an average Halloween haul and you'll want to make sure the bulk of it goes anywhere besides your family's stomachs.

There are a number of creative ways to get rid of Halloween candy, like using it for crafts or science experiments, having the Switch Witch take it in exchange for a small toy or, you know, saving it until Easter and throwing it in the basket. (Hey, it's only six months away—how stale can that candy get?) But perhaps the best thing to do with Halloween candy is donate it. That way your kids can enjoy a truly special treat: the feeling of helping others. Here are seven ideas for donating unopened candy.

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Operation Gratitude and Halloween Candy Buy Back
Operation Gratitude sends more than 100,000 care packages annually to U.S. troops stationed in overseas and to their children left behind, as well as veterans. The organization's mission is simple: to put a smile on soldiers' faces. Operation Gratitude accepts donations of unopened candy, and asks that you separate and mark "chocolate" versus "non-chocolate" packages. The website contains other important shipping info, and kids are encouraged to include letters and pictures, too. Worried you won't get it together to send the candy by the mid-November deadline? Then consider the Halloween Candy Buy Back program, which benefits Operation Gratitude. Go to the website to search for a participating dentist near you who will accept candy in exchange for toothbrushes, coupons and sometimes cash. Important note: It's imperative that you call ahead. Many dentists set certain buy back rules, like a maximum amount of candy or specific drop-off hours. Get the details before you go! Bronsky Orthodontics will once again participate.

Ronald McDonald House Charities
The Ronald McDonald House helps keep severely ill kids and their parents together during treatment. After Halloween, most locations accept donations of unopened candy for the families being served. You can search for your local chapter on the website but call ahead to find out the rules for dropping off candy.

Operation Stars and Stripes
Founded in 2001 in memory of a Vietnam War hero, this all-volunteer nonprofit supports service members at home and abroad with care packages and letters. Packages of unopened candy can be sent to the organization's Georgia headquarters. Specific shipping info can be found on the website.

Operation Shoebox and Any Soldier
These are two more organizations that collect and send care packages to troops overseas. Operation Shoebox accepts individually wrapped candies all year long. Meanwhile, Any Soldier allows you to decide which branch of the armed forces you'd like to support: Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. Local boutique Torly Kid will again be a collection site for Operation Shoebox New Jersey. Drop off your excess candy beginning November 1 and enjoy a 15 percent discount on your in-store purchase!

Finally, don't forget about your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, food pantry, or retirement or nursing home. Many take donations of unopened candy for residents and guests. It's worth calling to find out if they accept treats, which your kids can deliver with a note and a non-cavity-filled smile.

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Photo by Jeff_Golden via Flickr.

Originally published in October 2013.