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How to Start a Food Drive

One in eight Americans does not know where their next meal will come from and the majority of those individuals are ineligible for federal assistance. With high inflation and a looming recession, families find themselves unable to feed themselves. In addition, most food banks and pantries are distributing their resources faster than they can replenish them.

What is a Food Drive? 

This is where food drives come in. Food drives are a great way to provide food-insecure individuals and families with the supplies they need to stay healthy. People around the world have noticed an unmet need and are trying to address it. Food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens rely on donations to keep their shelves stocked. Food drives are also a great way to raise awareness about hunger and inspire others to take action.

There are two main ways to host a food drive – 

  1. Collecting canned goods and food donations in-person.
  2. Collecting funds on behalf of an emergency food relief charity.

How to organize a food drive

Contact your local food bank: Every food bank organizes its food drives differently. Be sure to ask for the following information:

  • How to register?
  • Preference on virtual food drives or traditional food drives?
  • Any food donation guidelines?
  • Drop off food donations or pick them up?

Collect donations for two weeks: Most food banks recommend that you run your food drive for at least two weeks.

Focus on the most wanted items: Cash is the most wanted item if you host a virtual food drive. A list of the most needed canned food items should be provided to you by your partner food bank or food pantry if you host a food drive. According to Feeding America, these items are:

  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese or yogurt
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Lean proteins such as frozen chicken and tuna

Drop-off your donations: Some food banks will pick up donations directly. However, many food banks cannot pick up your food drive donations and will ask you to deliver them to their warehouse.

What To Donate

Here are some items that food banks want:

  • Peanut butter
  • Canned soup or stew
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned fish
  • Canned beans
  • Pasta (most prefer whole grain)
  • Rice (most prefer brown rice)

What not to donate

Here’s what it won’t take:

  • Items needing refrigeration
  • Expired food
  • Leftovers
  • Baked goods


Source: Feeding America