You Can Donate Your Leftover Halloween Candy to American Troops and First Responders

Young child in a bear costume oversees his Halloween candy haul.
Young child in a bear costume oversees his Halloween candy haul. / Onfokus/E+ via Getty Images

Americans indulged their love of all things spooky this year in a major way, spending a record-breaking $10 billion on candy, decorations, and pet costumes for the 2021 season. Rather than confronting a weepy child with an empty bowl because they bought too little, shoppers tend to buy in bulk. Which means that, come November 1—whether you were trick-or-treating or simply handing out candy—there could be pounds of sugar-packed temptation still sitting in your house.

The good news: You can remove the risk to your waistline and do some good at the same time. A number of charitable organizations take leftover candy and send it to troops stationed overseas, as well military veterans and first responders. Since 2007, Operation Gratitude has been sending care packages of candy to both troops and first responders through its Halloween Candy Give Back Program. It began, ironically enough, with a group of 300 dentists. Today, according to their website, "volunteers from all 50 states and Washington D.C. share a portion of their excess Halloween candy with Operation Gratitude. We then assist in distributing the candy to deployed troops, local military units, veterans, and first responders, providing a sweet opportunity for grateful Americans to thank those who serve our nation."

Some dentists even offer buy-back programs, paying as much as $1 for each pound of candy returned.

If donating to a national program is proving difficult, you can always ship the extra candy directly to Operation Gratitude's Los Angeles processing center or deliver the excess goodies to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.

A version of this story ran in 2019; it has been updated for 2021.