Host a Food Drive

Did you know that there were 118 community held food drives in 2020. Host your own in 2021 and lets help feed the hungry! They are perfect for birthday parties, clubs, schools and business. Here are some tips for hosting a successful food drive are:

Determine Food Items – Establish exactly what types of items should be gathered. Will it be only canned food items or frozen and fresh foods needed? Is there a need for cooking staples, such as oils and flour? Are there specific needs, such as items for infants, children or women? And be sure to inquire about seasonal foods and items that might be in high needs as well.

Set Measurable Goals – After determining the quantitative and qualitative needs of your partner organization, set goals so that participants can easily measure how close you are to accomplishing them.

Get the Word Out – Start publicizing for the event ahead of time with fliers and social media posts. Local media outlets often welcome stories about community events. Send an email to the community desk editors of newspapers, TV stations and news sites with all of the basic information about the food drive and the kick-off event. Large businesses often are also willing to put bins in the lobbies of their buildings.


THEME IDEAS:

Fall Bounty – Capitalize on the autumnal themes of harvest and plenty by emphasizing that not everyone has the luxury of a full plate of food. Create a fall-centered theme for your food drive, encouraging donors to “share the bounty.”

Make Every Bean Count – Beans and legumes make for nutritious and sustainable food items. For this theme, you can make a beanstalk — à la “Jack and the Beanstalk” — at the drop-off spot, and give away “magic beans” (jelly beans) as a small thank you for donors.

Farm-to-Table – Focus on nourishing food items that are found in a garden or farm (canned tomatoes, green beans, corn). Your food drive can be a fun and easy farm theme, complete with red checkered tablecloths and a cutout tractor. You could also go in a farmer’s market direction, and partner with local food growers to gather wholesome and/or organic food items.

Read to Feed – An easy and effective school food drive, this theme is built on a reading competition in which students collect pledges from friends and family members. Students set goals to read a certain number of books over a period of time, and sponsors donate cans of food to support the goal.

Winter Is Coming – When the cold months begin, the need for hot food increases. Ask people to donate warm and hearty items like stew, boxes of pasta or soup. Create a winter-themed promotional campaign around your food drive, and you could also incorporate a coat drive if you have the resources!


WHERE AND HOW TO COLLECT:

Collection Site Options – You can execute a food drive in several different ways, from a single-site drop off on a single day to an extended food drive over a period of time to an event-related drive. Determine which method is most effective for your group and makes the most sense for the type of donors you are targeting.

Build a Network – Ask volunteers to publicize the food drive through word-of-mouth with their coworkers, church small groups and schools. If operating a multi-site food drive, work with your group members to set up at different locations where they have connections to gather donations from a variety of people.

Location, Location, Location – It is helpful to target heavily trafficked areas that the people who have seen publicity materials can easily access, like a school carpool line or outside of a church sanctuary. Make sure you are in an area where your audience will have a higher likelihood of participating — targeting random passersby in a grocery store parking lot will probably not be as successful as setting up in a neighborhood park where you have put up fliers and sent out a blurb in the community newsletter. (Porch pickups are another idea that makes it easy for people to participate.)

Schedule Shifts – Once you have dates, times and locations organized, make sure that each collection site is covered by splitting up volunteers over several shifts. Volunteer shifts don’t have to be too intensive — they can keep an eye on the collection boxes, answer any questions from donors, and hand out small thank you tokens.

Make it Competitive – A little competition always spices up donation-related events. Encourage donors to form teams and compete to see who brings the greatest amount or poundage of food items. Set a goal for your office and have different departments compete to see who meets the goal first.

Engage Local Celebrities – Make the food drive a community event by having local celebrities — an anchor from the TV station, the mayor, sports stars — work a shift or two to boost participation and visibility.

Provide a Fact Sheet – Don’t just collect food, but also work to educate your community on the needs around them. Give donors a fact sheet that includes statistics on hunger, along with some background information on both the hosting and receiving organizations.


AFTER THE FOOD DRIVE: Your work isn’t done once all the food has been donated. Put proper systems in place and you’ll easily be able to duplicate efforts in years to come.

Organizing + Delivering Food – Delegate a team to sort and deliver the food items to Common Pantry or we can even come pick them up! You can also make this task an “all hands on deck” day where everyone in your organization comes together to help. A bonus: They get to see the effects of your successful food drive!

Goal Celebration – Show appreciation to your volunteers by throwing a pizza party or ice cream sundae night where they can relax and celebrate accomplishing your group’s goals. Invite leaders from your partner organization to join and share how the food drive helped them.

Check in with Organization – After a month or two, follow up with your partner organization to see how they distributed your food drive items. Maybe there were some items that were not needed and they now have a surplus. Talk about takeaways with your partner organization, and note any adjustments you can make for the next food drive.

Report Back to Volunteers & Donators – If possible, you can work with your partner organization to meet some of the people who benefited from the food drive. Take photos or videos, but most importantly listen to these community members so that you can learn from their experience. You can then report back to volunteers and donors with a letter or blog post that shares the perspectives of individuals who were directly affected by their generosity.