Brighten someone else's day when you donate Halloween candy. Photo by Timothy Valentine via Flickr
Brighten someone else's day when you donate Halloween candy. Photo by Timothy Valentine via Flickr

Sweet Ways to Donate Halloween Candy

Got a Halloween candy hangover? We've got you covered with all the great places where you can donate Halloween candy.

Because come November 1, parents across the country are wondering how they're going to get rid of all the 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, 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 to donate it. That way your kids can enjoy a truly special treat: The feeling of helping others. Here are seven charitable organizations where you can donate Halloween candy—​or any unopened candy.

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Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude sends care packages to U.S. troops stationed overseas and first responders stateside. It collects hundreds of thousands of pounds of candy annually. The organization's mission is simple: to put a smile on soldiers' faces. The website contains important shipping info for the Halloween Candy Give-Back, and kids are encouraged to include letters and pictures. You can also check out the organization's map for drop-off locations. In 2018, Operation Gratitude launched a new initiative to give back to first responders closer to home and hopes to expand those efforts this year. Interested in pitching in and hand-delivering candy to your local fire department or police station? Email candy@operationgratitude.com with "I want to volunteer" in the subject line to sign up.

Halloween Candy Buyback Program
Visit this site to search for a participating dentist near you who will accept candy donations in exchange for a small reward for the kids, such as toothbrushes, coupons, and sometimes cash. Important note: It's imperative you call ahead. Many dentists set certain buyback rules, like a maximum amount of candy, or specific drop-off hours. Get the details before you go!


Donate Halloween candy to troops through Soldier's Angels Treats for Troops. Photo courtesy of Soldier's Angels

Soldiers' Angels
Similar to Operation Gratitude, but smaller in scale, Soldiers' Angels organizes Treats for Troops annually. Visit the website to find a Halloween candy donation drop-off point, or register to start a drive of your own.

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 and donate Halloween candy to troops overseas. Operation Shoebox accepts individually wrapped candies all year long. Meanwhile, Any Soldier allows you to search soldiers' wish lists and send donations to them directly.

Finally, don't forget about your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, food pantry, or retirement or nursing home when thinking of where to donate Halloween candy. Many take donations of unopened candy for residents and guests year-round. 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.

This article was originally published in October 2013; it is updated annually.