All hunger is local, so first, it's important to learn what food pantry or meal program serves your community and what their most needed items are. So says David Bobanick with Rotary First Harvest. When determining a location for the food drive, check with places of business, schools, churches or grocery stores to see who will permit volunteers on-site, he says.
Many pantries prefer shelf-stable foods with low saturated fats and low refined carbohydrates. Items like oatmeal, whole-grain rice and pasta, and canned stew, meat and vegetables are all good items to request, Bobanick says. Depending on the organization, infant formula, baby food and diapers are other possibilities.
"Don't be afraid to be specific," he says. "Make a list of those items you want to collect and hand the list out."
Capriotti's, a sandwich shop, wanted to give back to the community, so representatives from the company looked at organizations that closely aligned with its mission.
"The Las Vegas Rescue Mission provides meals for families in need, and it felt like the ideal partner," said Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti's.
Offering an incentive will always drive more people to participate, Morris says. If you're a business owner, offer a free sandwich or coupon for donating. If you're an individual, contact local businesses to see if they will donate gifts that you can pass out to participants. Such gifts include coupons or tickets to an event.
If you own a company and are considering a food drive, make sure you get all your locations involved. If you're an organization or a group of volunteers, recruit friends, community members and other volunteers to assist.
"It's important to present a united front," Morris says. "Having some locations participate and others not would significantly decrease the effectiveness of the drive."
Plan a process to collect money at any food drive, Bobanick says. Some will drop off a check rather than food, and monetary donations should be encouraged as well.
"Most hunger-relief programs can purchase staple food items at a greatly discounted price, so they can stretch any dollars collected much farther than you can at a grocery store," he says.
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