This time of year, food banks and food pantries across the United States help millions of families share holiday meals. With so many families in need, hosting a food drive at your office, church or school can be a great way to help keep their shelves stocked and raise awareness about hunger in your community.
Before you start asking everyone you know to contribute their canned goods, here are three things to keep in mind when planning your holiday food drive:
1. Contact your local food bank BEFORE you get started
Call or email your local food bank well ahead of the holidays to learn about how they typically work with food drives and any rules they have about the kind of food they can accept. Food banks often have a staff member who can help you make your food drive successful and provide you with collection boxes with the food bank’s logo, promotional posters and sample thank you emails.
Additionally, the holiday season is often the busiest time for food banks and food pantries, and some may not accept donations from food drives. During November and December, food banks and pantries see increasing numbers of families seeking holiday meals as well as an increase in the number of volunteers. While a sudden influx of donated holiday meals may seem generous, it may add more challenges for some food banks.
2. Get your family and friends involved
Your holiday food drive can inspire others to get involved in the fight against hunger. If you’re hosting a holiday get together, ask your local food bank what items they need and asks your guests to bring one item from that list. Don’t forget to ask your employer to help sponsor a food drive and see if they’ll offer an incentive to other employees who participate like a raffle prize or a casual dress day. They can also help you make sure that donated food is still within its expiration date and undamaged. Don’t forget to thank everyone at the end of the food drive by sharing a photo of all your donations.
3. Consider hosting a virtual holiday food drive instead
Fundraising on behalf of your local food bank or food pantry is a great alternative to the traditional food drive. The money raised through a virtual food drive allows food banks to turn donated dollars into more meals because they can buy groceries at a reduced price - much lower than what you would pay to the buy the items yourself. This also allows food banks to purchase the food that meets the specific dietary and nutritional needs of the people who need their services.
Plus, setting up an online fundraiser is easy! No need to haul around heavy boxes of pie filling, boxed stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Bonus tip: Carry the holiday spirit into the new year by giving back
Sadly, hunger isn’t just a problem facing families during the holidays. After the holidays, many food banks struggle to find enough volunteers and dedicated supporters to get food to every family in need. You can help throughout the year by becoming a regular volunteer or making a monthly donation to Feeding America or your local food bank.
Whether you choose a traditional or virtual food drive, you’re making a big difference this holiday season. No one should go hungry in America – especially during the holidays.