You’ve decided to organize a food drive for the Chester County Food Bank (CCFB)— that’s great! We simply couldn’t tackle food insecurity in our community without these types of donations that come from our dedicated, passionate supporters. Every single item that you and your family, friends, co-workers, and anyone else who’s participating, collect ends up in the hands of one of our neighbors in need, and it can make a positive impact on their day, week and beyond.
Now that you’ve assembled your awesome crew of food drive team members and registered your drive with the Food Bank, you might be wondering how you can mobilize your energy and make the most of your efforts. We get questions like this a lot! One great place to start is with our Food Drive Tool Kit, which addresses frequently asked questions, provides a list of our most-needed food items, and includes handy resources, like our logo and promotional flyers.
But there’s one major piece to the food drive puzzle which might not be clear, but it is really important for us: Just focus on a few items instead of trying to gather “one of everything.” While you might think of the food you gather as providing complete meals for one or a few families, it’s better to think of it like taking care of one category of food — perhaps pasta, grains and cereal, or canned or dried beans, or cooking oil.
“We tell people that are starting to plan their food drive: Think of this as stocking the shelves in a grocery store,” said Claudia Rose-Muir, CCFB’s Direct Distribution and Procurement Manager. “If you were to collect 100 boxes of pasta and 100 jars of sauce, 100 families would have a meal, but if you brought a couple of this or a few of that, while it would be great and more than someone had, it doesn’t help to make a meal.”
Stocking the shelves is, in fact, what food drives do for CCFB. Remember, we are not a food cupboard or pantry, where families and individuals come to pick up items that will help supplement their meals throughout the week. Chester County Food Bank is a centralized hunger relief organization, taking in donations from many sources, organizing and storing thousands of pounds of food in our warehouse, and then we redistribute items to food pantries, which we refer to as our “member agencies.” (For more on the differences between food banks and food pantries, see here). Our warehouse really does resemble a supermarket; the warehouse is organized by item and laid out in a similar fashion to a supermarket, with wide, deep shelves and aisles.
Choosing one or two items to focus on for your food drive — bonus points for creating a theme, like “pasta dinner” or “Soup-er Bowl” — also makes it easy for all participants to remember. Every time your team members are at the store doing their own shopping, they’ll remember to put a few extra of that item in their cart. Also, common pantry staples are something neighbors typically have on hand. When asking for donations, it’s best to be direct and specific, so a question like, “Do you have an extra can of soup or tuna in your cupboard?” might produce more effective results than a more vague, “Do you have anything to donate to our food drive?”
Another bonus of approaching your food drive this way is that you can harness the power of buying in bulk (something we know all about from our trips to local produce auctions). Items like rice and dried beans are even more inexpensive when you buy them from a bulk section, which are becoming popular in mainstream grocery stores. If the item your food drive is collecting is on sale one week, you can stock up, and, of course, warehouse stores, like Costco and BJs, are your ace in the hole if you’re a member, when it comes to buying in large quantities.
As with all of our food drives, we encourage you to choose foods that are whole-grain, low-sodium/sugar, and that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils. Also, please note: We are not able to accept expired or homemade goods, or items in glass. For answer to all other questions, please refer to our Food Bank Tool Kit, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck on organizing your most successful food drive ever!
Want to learn more? Check out our mission video, sign up for our newsletter and stay connected. You can also donate food, funds and time to help us achieve our mission. Call (610) 873-6000 to speak to someone about getting involved or to request a tour. Thanks to you, we’re growing a healthier community.
The Chester County Food Bank is the central hunger relief organization serving more than 120 food cupboards, meal sites and social service organizations throughout Chester County. We mobilize our community to ensure access to real, healthy food.
Photos: Chester County Food Bank