Sweeten someone else's day by donating Halloween candy to troops, the elderly, or children in need. Photo courtesy of the Halloween Candy Buyback Program
Sweeten someone else's day by donating Halloween candy to troops, the elderly, or children in need. Photo courtesy of the Halloween Candy Buyback Program

Sweet Ways to Donate Halloween Candy

While Halloween 2020 may look a little different, and trick-or-treat alternatives may be more in vogue than candy collecting, if you find yourself with a candy hangover, we're here to help. We've found seven charitable organizations where you can donate Halloween candy—or any unopened candy. In the midst of the pandemic, many of these organizations are short on sweets and could benefit from your donation even more than years past. While it might be hard for kids to let the candy go, getting in the habit of giving back lets them enjoy a truly special treat: the feeling of helping others.

If you want to hang on to a few pieces, we have more creative uses for sweet stuff like making candy crafts or using it for these science experiments, plus plenty of activities and inspiration for Halloween weekend in our Halloween Guide.

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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. If you'd like to volunteer, please pre-register by Halloween and read the FAQs for the 2020 Halloween Candy Give-Back. If you're not planning to trick-or-treat this year but would like to help share treats with troops, Operation Gratitude accepts monetary donations to help cover its shipping costs: $15 ships one candy care package overseas; $90 sends a jumbo package.

Halloween Candy Buyback Program

Visit this site to search for a participating dentist near you who accepts 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, so be sure to get the details before you go!

RELATED: 20 Hilarious Halloween Jokes for Kids

containers filled with candy
Donate Halloween candy to troops through Soldiers' Angels Treats for Troops. Photo courtesy of Soldiers' 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. While there is no universal candy donation program, many locations accept donations of unopened candy for the families it's helping after Halloween. Visit the RMHC Chapter search page to locate your nearest House and inquire about the specifics for candy donations.

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.

containers filled with candy in a dentist's office
Operation Shoebox partners with dental offices to collect candy for troops overseas. Photo courtesy Operation Shoebox

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 directly overseas.

Finally, don't forget about your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, food pantry, 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.

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