Six Tips for a Successful Food Drive

Have you been thinking about hosting a food drive? The Pantry relies greatly on food drives to help replenish our stores. Food drives are held by many of our local organizations and neighbors, including businesses, schools, churches, civic organizations, social clubs, HOAs, and scouting troops like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and American Heritage Girls. These local Pantry supporters truly exemplify our motto of Neighbors Feeding Neighbors, and, with their help, we are able to ensure that much needed food is always available to our neighbors in need.

So what is a food drive? It’s a donation drive in which organizers simply request and collect donations of non-perishable food to give to the Pantry. It can be in the form of a collection bin that sits at a location over a specific period of time or it can be a one-time event in which volunteers actively ask for and collect donations. Read below for six tips that will help you organize a successful food drive. 

  1. Determine a location and schedule. Location is everything after all! The busier the location, the more donations you will collect. Some great places/events to hold a food drive include:
    • Grocery stores or other retail locations
    • Schools/PTA meetings, colleges/universities
    • Gyms or health clubs
    • Sporting events/tournaments
    • Networking groups/social clubs
    • Churches/religious groups
    • Corporate offices
    • Special events/Holiday events

    Almost any event will work as a food drive; just request that the people who attend bring a non-perishable food donation to help those in need. If you plan to hold a food drive at a grocery store or other place of business (that is not your own), remember to request a time to hold your food drive or to ask for permission. Note that the local South Riding Giant is a big supporter of food drives and has a calendar available for scheduling them on Saturdays from the Spring to the Fall; you can just call them up and schedule as needed.

  2. Advertise. Once you have figured out the date(s)/time for your food drive, you should get the word out. If you belong to a group or organization, add the food drive to your group calendar, send out an email campaign to your members or your customers/clients, include a description of the food drive in your organization’s newsletter, or make a flyer that you can give to members or clients. You could also create a Facebook event and invite members of your organization, or your family and friends. If the food drive will be part of a special event, mention the food drive in your invitations. Or, if you have a retail business, you could tie the food drive to a specific promotion, such as bringing in a food item for a special discount.
  3. Recruit a team of helpers and volunteers and set a goal. For better donation amounts, it’s good to have multiple helpers. Food drives offer a great team-building activity for sports teams, organizations, social clubs, fraternities/sororities, or corporate offices. A food drive is also a great service project for youth groups, and scouting and civic organizations. Set a goal for your food drive, such as number of pounds, number of items, or number of boxes that your food- drive participants can work toward. It’s a great motivator!
  4. Make a list. Check in with the Pantry or visit the Pantry’s website for a list of current needs, what items we can accept and what items we cannot. You could also organize your food drive around our Friday Food Packs program, and ask for donations specific to that. Make a printed list to provide to donors or to physically hand out at the food drive location. Shoppers at the grocery store, for example, are eager for a list of most needed items.
  5. Provide visibility with donation bins, signs, and posters. Once you are ready to commence your food drive, display your containers for collection prominently and provide signage that clearly communicates what you’re doing. Do you need a large bin or just a small box on display in the lobby of your church or place of business? If your food drive is over several days, where is a high traffic area that people will see it easily every day? If you are holding a food drive outside of one of our business sponsor locations, a grocery cart (or two!) works well. Borrow signage from the Pantry or make your own signs or banners to display next to your containers for collecting food. If you set a goal, create a huge poster displaying progress toward the goal. Or, make a most wanted items poster as a reminder of the items the Pantry is in most need of. You would be surprised how much this will encourage donations! Also, take pictures that you can share with your food drive participants later.
  6. Finally, please express our gratitude. When you are holding a food drive for the Pantry, please let your contributors know how very much we appreciate their support on behalf of our neighbors in need! Food drives are crucial in helping us to do what we do!

Bonus tip! Schedule a time to drop off your donations at the Pantry and watch it get weighed. We find that the kids in the youth groups or scouting organizations really get a kick out of watching the pounds of food add up! It’s a tangible way for them to see the impact they are making. And, then, officially end your drive by sharing with your participants any pictures you took as well as the amount of donations you collected.

For more information on how to organize a food drive for the Pantry or for a list of items the Pantry currently needs, please contact

Posted in Dulles South Food News.