10 Food Drive Event Ideas

food drive
A food drive is a perfect activity for the whole family, so include your kids, too.

When you're planning a food drive, getting people excited and curious is one of the best ways to create buzz and fill an empty donation barrel. Yes, there's some planning involved and details to sort out, but one of the most effective ways to make sure your drive is a success is to make it easy and fun for people to donate. Let's look at 10 food drive ideas that will help you get your friends, neighbors or co-workers in a giving mood.


10: Create a Theme

A successful food drive is compelling. It gets people involved and excited. It makes them want to participate and contribute. You don't have to be a marketing wizard to conduct a food drive, but you'll have a more successful event if you adopt a theme.

Themes sound hard, but they actually make event planning easier. If you know the theme is "fall bounty," you're halfway to knowing what colors and images will work on posters, banners and other marketing materials. You'll have an intuitive grasp of how things should look. Contributors will be able to relate more quickly to what you're doing, too. They'll understand your purpose and put it in a context that's easy to remember.


Make each day of your food drive different with wish lists and themes. This will help ensure you'll get a variety of useful foods. Here are some examples:

  • Meating the Need -- Request high-protein foods like canned meats and peanut butter.
  • In the Garden -- Request canned fruits and vegetables.
  • Kid Friendly -- Request foods specifically for children like infant formula, cereal and shelf-stable milk.

9: Make it Competitive

If you have permission to conduct a food drive where you work, hold a friendly competition among departments and offer a prize to the department that collects the most food. Those folks over in payroll can be pretty cutthroat when it comes to winning and losing, which will help you collect more food and have more fun doing it. Be sure to post the daily collection totals for everyone to see, and have collection barrels in every department to make donating convenient.


8: Hold a Raffle

Not many can resist the thrill of a chance to win.
Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Holding a raffle is a classic way to raise money, or in this case, encourage people to donate food. First, you do need a prize or two. Prizes can be just about anything that appeals to the group you have in mind. One great choice is to ask volunteers to donate crafts they've made. Crafting is big business, and you may know a few jewelry makers, woodworkers or quilters who would be willing to donate finished pieces for a good cause. If they have small home-based businesses selling their crafts for extra money, they might also appreciate the publicity (not to mention the oohs and aahs). Buy rolls of raffle tickets at your local party store and conduct multiple raffles, one for each finished craft project. Display the crafts where they'll be easy to inspect and admire. Make the cost of a ticket an item of food.

If you get lots of craft donations, a bazaar theme is a nice touch that will pull everything together.


7: Make Food the Fee

If your school, church or company is sponsoring a sporting event, bake sale or dance, make a food donation part of the cost of admission. Be sure to give everyone advance notice, and provide a list of food items that are most in demand like:

  • infant formula
  • shelf-stable milk
  • baby food
  • peanut butter
  • paper products
  • cleaning supplies
  • juice boxes
  • canned vegetables
  • canned fruit
  • canned tuna
  • canned stew
  • canned soups (those containing meat are best)
  • boxed cereal
  • oatmeal
  • beans


6: Dress Down with Food

Food drives at work can generate a lot of food and be fun, too. If your employer is willing, host a casual Friday (or Thursday) and make the cost for wearing those boat shoes and faded denims a donation to the food drive. Casual day inspires a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Make the most of the occasion by asking for food donations and possibly conducting a blood drive at the same time. It's a twofer that helps the community, and running both events simultaneously will help everyone remember to donate.


5: Trick, Treat -- What's to Eat?

Teach kids the value of charity by collecting canned foods instead of candy.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

Around Halloween, pull a switch by conducting a food drive in which neighborhood children go door to door in your condominium, apartment building or neighborhood (accompanied by an adult) asking for canned food donations. Make sure to send out fliers well in advance so your neighbors are in on the plan. People are used to handing out candy at Halloween. Now they can give something nutritious to folks who really need it. This is a good way for kids to begin to associate the holiday with community service and the spirit of giving, too. (This won't work everywhere, so obtain the proper permissions before you get too far into the planning process.)


4: Wrap Things Up

The holidays are hectic, and people don't always have the time or talent to wrap pretty packages for gift giving. If you can annex a spot in or near a retail center, and have the manpower in the form of talented volunteers, a gift-wrapping station where customers pay with food or food bank donations can be quite successful. Depending on the location, a gift wrapping service will become popular with harried shoppers who don't want to be stuck wrapping presents at midnight on Christmas Eve. That will make it attractive to business owners, too. Local businesses may even be persuaded to donate the wrapping paper and other supplies. This is a great way to provide a needed service while helping the hungry.


3: Make the Meal the Message

Feed your guests and have them bring donations for the local food bank -- win/win!

Cooking events like barbecues, tailgate parties and picnics are what summer is all about. They're also settings that showcase the way food brings families and communities together. Food drives during food events like chili cook-offs and grilling competitions can be particularly poignant. The key to making them effective is in getting the word out ahead of time. Contact event sponsors early, and work with them to find ways to promote the event as a great opportunity to eat, have fun and share with the less fortunate.


2: Involve the Community

The economic slowdown has had an impact on many communities across the nation. The USDA estimates that in 2010, one in six people in the U.S. had trouble finding enough to eat. That statistic is probably as alarming to your community leaders and local business owners as it is to you. Even though the news sounds discouraging, there's a bright side. People recognize there's a need, and many who can help, want to help. When you plan your food drive, think big. Ask local businesses like grocery stores, movie theaters and large retailers for assistance. Some national chains have earmarked budgets for good works at the local level, so be bold. Ask for ideas and suggestions. You may end up with more support and resources than you ever expected.


1: Work With Your Regional Food Bank

You're not the first person or group to hold a food drive, and chances are a regional food bank in your area has lots of interesting suggestions based on past campaigns that will give ideas you can refine and customize to fit your circumstances. Some organizations even provide handy program kits you can use to plan and promote your drive. If your food drive ideas turn out to be a roaring success, share your strategy with your food bank representative. What worked well for you will probably work for someone else, too. After all, sharing is what it's all about.

Lots More Information

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  • Amos, Janell Shride. "Fundraising Ideas." McFarland. 1995.
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  • Richardson, Jesse. "10 Green Community Activity Ideas: Get More Engaged." 6/2/11. (2/29/12). http://www.organicsoul.com/10-green-community-activity-ideas-get-more-engaged/
  • Step by Step Fundraising. "Top 10 Fundraisers." (2/29/12). http://www.stepbystepfundraising.com/top-fundraisers/
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