How can you create a food drive that really delivers? We asked hunger-relief leaders and loyal volunteers to share their best tips. Put their ideas to work for you!
- Consider a spring or summer drive. “Many folks like to give back during the holiday season, but food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens are often inundated during that time, and need yelp year-round,” says Noreen Springstead, managing director of WhyHunger, an organization that fights hunger and promotes self-sufficiency.
- Ask your local food bank what items it needs most, so you can fill in those gaps, Springstead recommends. “If the facility serves many seniors, for instance, they may especially need protein shakes. Or they may distribute toiletries as well as food, and be thrilled for basics like toothbrushes and toothpaste in addition to groceries,” she explains.
- Give out tote bags with a list of most-wanted items inside, so participants have an easy way to gather and drop off the goods. (Better still, arrange pick-ups if possible.)
- Look into free advertising. Local papers, radio and TV stations, and online news patches may all be willing to help you spread the word.
- Don’t drag it out. “The most successful food drives generally last about one to four weeks,” notes Adam Lowy, executive director of hunger-relief group Move for Hunger. That’s enough time for people to gather donations, but not so long that the campaign loses momentum.
- Put collection bins in places people visit repeatedly, such as your community center. “The more often people pass by, the better chance they’ll remember to donate,” says Lowy. You can also try partnering with a local market, suggests food blogger Toni Snearly, who did this for one food drive: “We stood outside the store with lists of wanted items. Customers would take the list inside, purchase an item from the list, then drop it off on their way out.”
- Offer incentives, suggests Susan Acker, a communications associate with the Los Angeles regional Food Bank. Running a drive at your workplace? Give participants the privilege of dressing casually for a day, or leaving an hour early. For a community food drive, try organizing a concert or other fun event and asking for a few cans or boxes as “admission.”
- Consider taking cash donations too, if you have a safe way of handling the money. Money will go even further than food, since the food bank can use it to purchase groceries in bulk. In fact, hunger-relief organizations pay only about ten cents per pound for food that would cost consumers $2 per pound retail, says Springstead.
These helpful tips are a great starting point for any organization or group looking to help people in their communities. Looking for a food bank that might appreciate your help? Visit Whyhunger.org/findfood for a list of facilities near you.