Community Service: Ideas and Tips for Organizing Food Drives

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Hunger is a common problem not just for cities or states but also for the entire world. For such reason, local communities have set up soup kitchens, food pantries, and food banks to help those in need. Food drives, in particular, are used to raise awareness about hunger and collect donations to keep those food pantries and banks. Local businesses can host them, community organizations, and schools.

Food drives can be hosted by big organizations and small groups of people who have the passion and dedication for community service. You can plan out food drives with your friends, workmates, and neighbors. Are you interested in organizing and hosting a community food drive? If yes, we’ve prepared a few helpful tips that you may find useful.

1. Work with a local organization

You have the freedom to connect with several local charitable organizations, but it’s best to focus on one or just a few first. Check if your local food pantry or soup kitchen is willing to help you plan the community project and accept donations. You’d also want to research the organizations first. These organizations may share the same goal, but they generally have different processes that you should know.

For instance, food banks are responsible for preserving edible commodities or food for food pantries and soup kitchens. The pantries, on the other hand, are the ones that directly distribute to the community. As for soup kitchens, they don’t only serve soups as most people think. They also offer balanced meals with goodie bags and living essentials such as clothes and hygiene kits.

2. Recruit the right volunteers

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Having people to help you can increase the chance of your food drive being successful. You can ask your family or relatives, friends and colleagues, and your neighbors if they are willing to devote time and effort to organizing and doing food drives. To extend your reach, you can talk to senior citizen centers and other local organizations that may have pools of volunteers. Once you find people to participate in your food drive, ensure to get their full names and contact details. This is important so you can keep each volunteer updated with the planning phase.

To keep your team intact, host meetings before the food drive. This way, volunteers are informed about the organization’s background, the food drive’s goal and timelines, and the volunteers’ responsibilities. You can also create schedules for them to ensure all tasks are done on time. Suggested volunteer tasks include transporting food donations, promoting the project, creating and distributing the flyers.

3. Decide what food to accept

The next important thing you should think about is the donations you’ll be accepting and rejecting. In general, almost all foods are acceptable, but it’s best to point out those in demand. If you’re not sure, ask the local organization you will be working with. Among the most in-demand foods are rice and pasta, low-sodium canned vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, vegetable and fruit juices, low-sodium soups and broths, and condiments. Healthy snacks such as dried fruits and granola bars are also appreciated. Food banks also advise not to accept perishables and opened food items. Create a list of food donations to avoid. Some of the ones to avoid are home-baked goods, expired items, dusty cans, and food in glass jars.

4. Gather equipment and materials

The equipment you’ll need to invest in depends on the location and type of food drive you’re planning to have. If you’re going mobile, your car and food crates in different sizes are all you need for collection. However, if you’re planning to set up permanent stands for your project, there are various options you can try. For one, you can invest in stainless steel pickup food carts to collect and distribute the food donations. You can opt to buy new carry-out carts or check your local restaurants if they can lend or donate some.

If you have more budget, you can invest in vending machines to efficiently distribute hot meals and snacks for the project. This is ideal if you’re working with a stable food bank or local organization to sponsor the machines. Other common materials essential for food drives are tables and chairs, bins and boxes, promotional signs, cash to change for monetary donations, and refreshments for your team.

If the idea of food pantries and food banks motivates you to help, why not consider organizing your very first food drive. Help them collect food donations, broaden meal assistance, and promote a healthy diet. Families, particularly young kids, can surely appreciate such outstanding community projects. As a bonus, you’re also taking part in reducing food waste.

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