By Guest Blogger Leslie Isakoff, A Simple Gesture

Fall is a popular time for food drives. The thought of a family not having enough food for Thanksgiving dinner or a meal to celebrate the December holidays motivates Scout troops, youth groups, Sunday school classes, neighborhood associations, schools, civic clubs, and professional associations to schedule food drives in November and December. And food pantries appreciate that effort, for sure!

What turns a solid food drive into a super-successful effort? Here’s what food pantries across the Triad want you to know:

  • Find out from the food pantry if they’re in need of particular items. Sometimes it’s the items food donors might not think about—flour, sugar, salt and pepper, breakfast cereal—that are in shortest supply. While some food donors grab whatever is in their own cabinets to donate, others make a special shopping trip to purchase their donations. In most cases, they’re happy to buy items the food pantry needs most.
  • Ask about “best by” dates. Each food pantry has its own rules about “best by” dates on food cans and packages. Many pantries put food in a special “use it quickly” section if the date on the can or box is within a certain time period. Let food donors know what to keep in mind regarding those dates.
  • Pump up your results with a friendly challenge. Find a similarly sized Scout troop to compete against, provide an incentive to the class that brings in the most food, challenge your neighborhood to fill a certain number of bags of food, or compete against your own group’s results from last year. Throw down the gauntlet in an attempt to raise more food!
  • Give your food drive a theme. Choose a theme based on your school mascot, the time of year, or the type of food being collected. “Cans for Cougars,” “Can-Do November,” and “Bring on Breakfast” add an element of interest to your food drive.
  • Dress up your drop-off box. If you’ll have drop-off boxes to collect the food, include the pertinent information (food drive start and end dates, types of food needed, pantry the food will go to) but also invite kids or artsy friends to decorate the box for extra attention. You could even host a collection box decorating contest.
  • Consider culturally appropriate foods. Ask the pantry you’re donating food to if they need particular items, such as basmati rice or mung beans. Finding familiar foods to make favorite recipes can mean a lot to a family going through lean times.
  • Ask the pantry for guidelines. What’s the best time to drop off donations? Does the pantry accept items in glass jars? Are there any items they are overloaded with currently? If they just had six pallets of green beans donated, they’ll be hoping for the corn and carrots instead of more beans.
  • Sometimes cash is best. Busy families appreciate the opportunity to donate a few dollars instead of making a special trip to the grocery store. Find out if the food pantry can accept donations via Venmo, PayPal, or its website, or collect contributions and present them all at once. This allows the pantry to purchase items to fill in gaps.
  • Give food on an ongoing basis. A Simple Gesture offers an easy and convenient way to support your local food pantries on a regular basis. Food donors receive a green reusable grocery bag and fill the bag with nonperishable food over a two-month period. Then, on the designated pickup date (always a Saturday), donors place their bags on their front porch. A Simple Gesture’s volunteers pick up the bag and take it straight to the food pantry, and they leave an empty bag to repeat the process two months later. So easy! You’ll find that your children enjoy helping to pick out items to put in the bag and being in charge of putting the bag on the porch. Even the busiest families can squeeze in a project like this.

Ready to request your A Simple Gesture reusable grocery bag? To sign up in Guilford County, click here. To sign up in Alamance County, click here.

Regularly donating food to support our local food pantries provides a great example of working together and giving back, one that will make a lasting impression on toddlers and teens alike!

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