Tips for running a successful food or item drive

Get Organized

Find a partner.  Choose a local agency recipient for the food drive. The needs of each pantry change throughout the year. Unless you have predetermined the items you want to collect, contact the pantry before your drive to determine what food/item needs you can address.

Make it easy to give.  Provide grocery bags for food donations. Offer the option of giving food, items, cash or check. Identify drop-off sites. Consider offering more than one site if your company is large or has multiple locations. 

Communicate Clearly

Educate everyone about the issue you are addressing, and its impact in the community.  If people understand the importance of food drives, they will be more motivated to give. Many pantries receive donations during the holidays, but they also need food at other times of the year, especially in the spring and summer months.

Set a goal.  If this is the first food drive you are holding, pick a goal that is challenging, yet achievable. If you have held previous food drives, consider increasing your goal this year.  Be sure to post information about the food drive in a prominent location and report daily contributions towards reaching your goal.

Pick a theme or catchy slogan.
Theme examples:

  • Baby needs
  • Seniors needs 
  • School supplies
  • “Chili Fixin’s Food Drive”
  • “Chicken Soup Food Drive”
  • Ethnic food items (Asian, Latino, etc)

Slogan Examples:

  • “Pack it In”
  • “Clean Up with Hygiene Items!”
  • “Book Worms”
  • “Squeaky Clean”
  • “Baby Basics”
  • “Worldwide Fixin’s”

Thank your donors.  Ideally, each drop-off site will have someone who can provide a personal “thank you” to each donor. Communicate final results and express thanks to participants – in employee newsletters, or on your intranet or website.

Provide Incentives

Organize contests: Friendly competitions can be arranged between different departments at your organization.  Offer prizes (coupons for free lunches or a vacation day) to the team that brings in the most donations.

Suggested Food Drive Items to Collect
Most Needed Items
Non-perishable food

Complete meals: pasta and sauce, boxed meals, hearty soups,  stews
Fruits, vegetables: canned fruits and vegetables, 100 percent fruit juice, instant potatoes, fruit preserves
Grains: rice, cereal
Meats, fish, protein: canned tuna, ham or chicken, beef stew, chili peanut butter, canned/dried beans

Hygiene products: deodorant, soap, toilet paper, tissue, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, feminine hygiene products, bubble bath and hand/body lotion, ethnic hygiene and hair care products (cocoa butter, shea butter, ethnic shampoos and conditioners).

Baby items: disposable diapers, wipes, formula

Household products: dish soap, laundry detergent, cleaning products, paper towels, light bulbs and other commonly used household items

Most food shelves do not take donations of perishable items, home-canned goods or glass containers.  Please contact the specific panty you will to donate to learn more about their needs.

Ethnic Food Items

Asian: Asian chili sauce, Asian noodles, bamboo shoots, fish sauce, rice, jasmine, sardines, vegetable oil

Latino: black beans, corn tortillas, crackers, flour, corn flour, pinto beans, sugar, vegetable oil, white rice

Native American: canned berries, dried corn, maple syrup, vegetable oil, wild rice

Russian: black tea, canned fished, cereal, grains, flour, jams and jellies, picked and marinated vegetables, rice, sugar, vegetable oil

Somali: dried beans, flour, pasta, sugar, tomato sauce, tuna, vegetable oil, white or basmati rice