A successful food drive takes a lot of planning. Organizations that run large-scale food drives often start planning and organizing months in advance in order to get all the logistics right. But what if you just had the brilliant idea of organizing a canned food drive just a few weeks before Christmas? Go for it! If your classroom or workmates have just decided that they want to run a holiday food drive as a service project, you can still pull off a successful food drive with a minimum of planning.  With just a week to go before Worcester County Food Bank’s annual holiday food drive, held in conjunction with WSRS 96.1, check out these tips for planning a food drive in a hurry to maximize your donations to help feed our neighbors. (Of course, you can use these tips to organize a food drive any time, or to donate to any organization!)

1. Contact The Organization You Want to Help

Before you do anything, decide where your donated foods will go. The Worcester County Food Bank partners with a number of community businesses and organizations to who run  food drives, such as the upcoming 27th Annual WSRS-96.1 WSRSFeed Worcester County Food Bank Food Drive in conjunction with WSRS and Market 32. The Food Bank offers helpful tips on their website, as well as a printable recommend food donation list and a form for you to let them know about your food drive. It’s not essential, but it can make it easier for you to coordinate dropping off donations after your event is over.

You may prefer to donate directly to a specific food pantry or shelter rather than to a larger food bank. Again, your first step should be to contact that agency and learn what their most needed items are, and if they have particular guidelines for donations. And if you’d like to donate directly to a smaller food pantry but

2. Check the List of Recommended Foods for Donations

While most types of food are appreciated, some foods are always in demand at local food pantries. If you’re in doubt, you can always check with the organization that will receive your donations for their own list, but the recommended items list provided by the Worcester County Food Bank is a good starting point. The most in-demand foods include:

            • Healthy snacks (nuts, granola bars, canned and dried fruits)
            • Low-sodium canned vegetables
            • Rice, past, and pasta sauce (canned — no glass)
            • Canned beans (all varieties!)
            • Low-sodium broths, soups, stews, chili
            • Cereal
            • Gluten-free foods
            • Peanut butter and jelly
            • Spices and condiments
            • 100% fruit and vegetable juices

recommended food items when planning a food drive. It has the Worcester County Food Bank logo and the heading Recommended Items. The text reads," Worcester County Food Bank accepts many different kinds of donated foods. This list isn't intended to be comprehensive, but should give you an idea of some of the items most often in need at local pantries. Healthy snacks (nuts, granola bars, canned and dried fruits). Low sodium canned vegetables. Rice, past, and pasta sauce (canned - no glass). Canned beans (all varieties!). Low sodium broths, soups, stews, chili). Cereal. Gluten-free foods. Peanut butter and jelly. Spices and condiments. 100% fruit and vegetable juices. Note: unopened foods only, please. No perishables. NO GLASS. Questions? Contact us: (508) 842-3663.


3. Consider Tailoring Food Donations to Specific Populations

Worcester is an especially diverse city, with many different cultures, nationalities, and religions represented. Especially during the holiday season, you might consider asking people to donate foods that take religious and cultural factors into account: kosher and halal foods, for example, or foods that are often part of national or cultural holiday celebrations – speices for tradional recipes, or cans of coconut cream or condensed milk for baking. Donations like these might be especially appropriate if you’re donating to an organization that works specifically with those populations. WCFB’s Agency Locator is an excellent resource if you’re looking for a specific food pantry, shelter, or program you’d like to support.

4.  Learn Which Foods to Avoid

Just as there are foods that are always in demand, there are foods and items that food banks and pantries can’t accept. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will help make sure that all of your food donations make it to the tables of folks who need them. If in doubt, consider whether you’d be grateful to receive that item you’re thinking of donating.

          • Expired foods
          • Food in glass jars (we can’t say this often enough!)
          • Home-baked goods
          • That dusty can in the back of your cupboard that no one will ever eat

5. Get Creative in Collecting Food

Consider your resources for food collection. Here are some creative ways to collect donations from friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and others who might be grateful for an opportunity to help.

          • Turn your upcoming event into a fundraiser. Musicians, artists, venue owners and other creatives could dedicate one show to collecting food by waiving the cover charge or admission for those who bring one or more items of food to donate.
          • Turn a pot luck dinner into a food drive by asking guests to bring along a set of any non-perishable ingredients used to create their dish, unopened and suitable for donation.
          • Partner with small businesses in your neighborhood. Ask if you can put a donation box for non-perishable food items or cash donations in their stores.
          • Hold a neighborhood food drive. Print and distribute flyers explaining what you’re doing, including where the food will be donated and how it will help, and asking them to leave donations on their doorstep or outside their doors at a certain date and time. Remember to leave a thank you note when you collect the food!
          • Challenge another department at work to a food gathering competition. Come up with a prize for the winner – or a penalty for the loser – that makes it more fun. Losers buy pizza for the winners? Winners get first choice of the office donuts?
          • Combine the company holiday party with a food drive.

6. Use Social Media to Spread the Word.

Leverage your friends list. Announce what you’re doing, or make an event to make it easier to invite friends to participate. Instead of a neighborhood food drive, do a friendslist food drive — same idea. Make an event, invite local friends to leave donations out for you to collect, and on the appointed day, make the rounds and collect the donations.




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