Most chapters organize a food collection/donation drive at some point during the year, with November and December being the peak months for collections. The folks at Feeding America (formerly Second Harvest), the organization that coordinates the important work of the nation’s food banks, has provided us with the following "Tips for Food Drives" to help you begin planning your collections for this year.
Tips for Food Drives
- Feeding America has 205 food banks in their national network. Not all food banks will be located within close proximity to the site of the food drive (some food banks’ service an entire state) and therefore may not be able to:
- Pick up the food drive products. So consider dropping off the donations.
- And may need to refer the school to a local, partner agency or charity which also may not be able to pick up the food drive products.
- October through December is the food banks’ busiest time for food drives. Their barrels or boxes for donations will be sent out of their food banks and typically located at large grocery stores or large businesses. Consider holding a food drive during another part of the year. Also, keep in mind that the food bank will most likely not be able to provide the school with boxes or barrels.
- Consider a theme if you hold a food drive at another time of year (which I strongly recommend) – For example, Valentine’s Week: “Give from the Heart” or during the second week in May – “Make Your Mother Proud and Help Stop Hunger”, etc. The summer months can be particularly brutal for keeping a food bank stocked and helping provide food for summer feeding programs. Consider holding a peanut butter and jelly drive the last week in May or first week of June – right before summer dismissal.
- Make it competitive between grade levels or individual classes if you can. The winning class is awarded a pizza party, sub-sandwich lunch, etc.
- Remind the parents/families about the food drive in newsletters, information that goes home with students, signage in front of the school, other communication vehicles. Provide notice ahead of time with friendly reminders as the drive dates near.
- Have students/your food drive committee do some research and provide local statistics about hunger in the information that will be shared at school or at home. The food bank’s web site or staff can provide this information.
- Limit the time of the food drive. My daughter’s school collects food for two days. We hold two food drives a year, and deliver the food to the food pantry.
- If the school allows, have the honor roll students collecting and organizing the food. Have the students help deliver the food.
- Please donate food that is still well in code or well before its “best if used by” date.
- Please do not donate any perishable food, homemade food, home canned items, expired food, or any form of baby food products (including formula, jarred vegetables and fruits, meals, snacks, infant cereal). Consult with the food bank staff to determine whether there are any needs for such items in the community before collecting. Providing students and families a list of needed and approved items is helpful.
- Please do not use a food drive as an opportunity to clean out your pantry. Purchase an item or two for the food drive or ensure that what you are donating is something you would happily eat.
- Take the food drive one step further: All of the food drive product must be hand-sorted by volunteers at the food bank. If there is a food bank in close proximity to the school or neighborhood, encourage the students to volunteer to sort food as an extension of your food collection drive. Food drive product is typically sorted – due to the large amount of holiday food drives – from January through March.
- There are highly-desired items requested by almost every food bank, so you could target a food drive or make it very limited to two to three key items. The top requested non-perishable food items are:
- Canned fruits and vegetables
- Canned meals such as soups, chili, pasta
- 100% juice
- Peanut butter
- Pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce
- Macaroni and cheese
- Canned protein – tuna, chicken, turkey
- Beans – canned or dry
Many thanks to Diane Letson from the national office of Feeding America for providing this information. Additional tips and resources for food drives, including how to find the food bank nearest your school, can be found at www.feedingamerica.org. We encourage you or your food drive committee members to visit their Web site soon.