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Slight preface: I’m Jewish, but secular at best. So I know “how things work” in some ways, but still have questions from my own perspective.

That said, one aspect of Passover has always confused me: I understand that Chametz (aka: leavened food/bread and such) is forbidden on Passover and must be removed from the home. And I understand that in many communities, Chametz is burned. And I further understand that Chametz may be sold to a non-Jew as well to unburden the original owner of the Chametz.

But why then isn’t the Chametz routinely donated to a charity—such as a non-Jewish charity—to help feed others? Wouldn’t donating the food to those in need be seen as a Mitzvah since the food would help the poor and needy?

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    The chametz that is burned is typically in very small quantity, basically whatever was in open boxes and not eaten by the morning of Erev Pesach. If you go to cities which have common areas to burn the chametz, you will see that very little if anything deserves being given away. Larger quantities are typically sold. – mbloch Mar 31 '18 at 17:03
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    Good point! I agree with the premise of the question that this should be done, but I disagree with the assumption that it is not. Just one example – WAF Mar 31 '18 at 19:22
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    @WAF The premise of this question is about the practice in general. There are aways exceptions to the rule, but the practice is—in general—to destroy or burn the Chametz. – JakeGould Mar 31 '18 at 19:52
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    @JakeGould, personally at home we give it often to the birds and animals around us in the days before Pesach, but you make a good point for donation. But I would like to make a footnote; selling it to a Non-Jew or giving it to a charity could be done, but probably only outside of Israel. Exodus 12:15 talks about houses and Israel, Exodus 12:19-20 talks about no leaven (what's to be sour) can be found within the congregation, Exodus 13:7 says it shall not be seen in all our borders... So if one would like to give it away I would propose that one should give it to someone outside of Israel. – Levi Apr 1 '18 at 7:45
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    Where I live they have the community burning (for small open package). and right next to it they have a truck for people to donate closed non perishables. – mroll Apr 2 '18 at 1:45
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To summarize the comments (as well as my personal experience):

It is required to burn (or otherwise destroy) a small amount of Chametz (see here for some technical stuff). Chametz that is typically burned is a small, token amount of opened food. For many (if not most) people that I see, it is ten small croûtons or bread pieces that are customarily scattered around the house (see here) and "hunted down" during the Search for Chametz the night before Passover.

Prior to the burning of Chametz on the day before Passover, there are various Jewish and non-Jewish charities that collect Chametz. The Jewish charities tend to make sure it is consumed before Passover (and/or sold for Passover), where as non-Jewish charities would not need to. This is certainly a big Mitzvah, and I myself try to donate excess Chametz to these causes.

Others try to feed some excess Chametz to the local animals or birds, which also technically fulfills the obligation of destroying it.

Many expensive Chametz items (such as bottles of whiskey or any Chametz-containing alcohol) are typically sold to a non-Jew to avoid large losses, although I'm sure some people are okay with donating expensive foods to charity.

(As an aside, prior to passover there is an early custom to give extra charity in advance of the upcoming holiday, although this obviously does not include Chametz. See here.)

Hope this helps!

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