Did you know that about 13.8 million households experience food insecurity each year? This means 10% of people in America don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Running a canned food drive can help families get their next meal.
Setting up a canned food drive is easier than you may think. You can run a food drive out of your home, business, or community space. With the right tools, you can positively impact your community and help lower food insecurity right where you are.
How to Run a Canned Food Drive
Many community-based organizations lack the resources or capacity to meet the needs of those struggling with food insecurity. Food pantries and food banks often run short on food. If you’re looking for ways to volunteer as a family, running a canned food drive is a great way to serve those in need.
This guide focuses on a “single-site drop-off” model where you ask people to bring you canned food donations to a specific place on a set date. Then you take those donations to a community-based organization in your area.
Step 1: Pick a Local Group that Needs Food
First, you need to pick a local group in your area that would benefit from a food drive. You have several options, including your local food bank, homeless shelter, faith-based organizations such as churches, senior citizen centers, and schools.
If you need suggestions on which food organizations are in need, start by contacting your local food bank. Feeding America allows you to find your local food bank by inputting your zip code. The food bank itself may benefit from your drive, or they can point you in the direction of a food organization in your neighborhood.
Step 2: Contact the Organization
Once you’ve determined which organization will benefit from your drive, contact that organization to talk to them about your idea and how to best accommodate their needs. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Here are a few good questions to ask:
- Who is the contact person to work with for coordinating food?
- What time of year do you need donations? What date works best?
- What do you need?
- Is there anything you don’t or cannot accept?
- How should the food be sorted at the donation site?
- Do I need to deliver the food, or do you pick it up? When is the best time to do this?
Step 3: Decide Where You’ll Have the Food Drive
Since we’re focussing on a “single-site drop-off” model, you’ll want to figure out where that place will be, what dates, and how long the drive will last. You can collect food at your home, business, or community spaces like the park.
Step 4: Set a Date
You can set a date that works with your organization, or you can wait until you have volunteers to select a date that works best for your team. You will need to pick a date and time when you’ll need volunteers to take donations.
Food drives can last however long you would like them to, but most food banks will recommend running your campaign for at least two weeks to make the most impact.
You can set up donations every day for two weeks from 5 P.M. to 7 P.M, for example, or whatever time works for your team and the drop-off location.
Step 5: Get Volunteers
Contact family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors who can help you organize and execute your food drive. You can also check with local community organizations, like Girl Scouts, libraries, schools, senior citizen centers, and places of worship to find people willing to help in the community. If you struggle to find volunteers, register on Create the Good to find volunteers in your area.
When gathering volunteers, be sure to get each person’s full name, contact information, and hours they would be available to help. Email is a great way to keep everyone in the loop.
Step 6: Manage Your Team
Once you’ve gathered all your volunteers, it’s time to start delegating what each volunteer will do to help run the canned food drive.
- Meet up. Have a meeting 3-5 weeks before the food drive so that volunteers understand the goal of the food drive, what is required of them, the timeline, and the organization you are supporting.
- Delegate tasks. Volunteers can make and distribute flyers, promote the event, staff the event, or transport the food donations. Figure out who will do what.
- Create a schedule. Develop a plan for volunteers. Keep in mind that you will need more volunteers during peak hours than earlier or later hours.
Step 7: Get the Word Out
The key to a successful food drive is to get the word out to as many people as possible about the event. Be sure to promote, promote, promote! Here are some ways you can get the word out:
- Distribute flyers-Ask permission to display flyers, posters, or postcards at coffee shops, libraries, malls, and local businesses. This is where kids can really take charge, creating handmade flyers and posters.
- Word of mouth-Ask local community members to promote the food drive through their local place of faith, clubs, community groups, etc.
- Social media-Create a Facebook group or page. Share your drive on all your social media platforms.
- Other media– Ask some volunteers to develop a list of local editors and reporters (names, phone numbers, and email addresses) to ask them to get the word out for you. Many newspapers, radio, and television stations will list their contact information on their websites.
Step 8: Run The Canned Food Drive
Once you’ve planned the food drive and got the word out, all that’s left is to collect the food and deliver it to the organization in need. Here are some tips for an effective food drive day:
- Set up the collection site with tables, chairs, and boxes labeled for various food types.
- Post food drive signs in visible areas so people know where they donate.
- Enjoy the event! Have kids and younger volunteers hold posters or help collect the items and place them in the collection bins.
- After the food drive, don’t forget to send a thank-you note to all the volunteers.
Are you planning a canned food drive in your area? If so, we’d love for you to share the details in our Local Anchor Facebook Group! Looking for other ways to give back to your community? Check out The South Bay Homeless Project, Dance 4 Pediatric Therapy Network, or The Seeking Light Foundation.