Organize a Neighborhood Food DrivePrint Page
Neighborhood food drives are a great way to get children involved in their communities by teaching them where their food comes from, increasing food access, and learning how to plan an event in the community.
A neighborhood food drive is a great way to stock the shelves at local food pantries, connect with schools and other organizations to build community engagement, and keep children fed during the summer when school meal programs may be harder to access. They support many community organizations that strive to make nutrition more accessible by bringing together members of all corners of the community. Not to mention, food drives offer children opportunities to take leadership and develop skills in relationship building, empathy, and social awareness.
Choose an Organization: The first step in planning a neighborhood food drive is deciding who the families and children would like to help with their efforts.
- Partnering up with a local school can be a great way to connect students and their families to opportunities within the community. School partnerships also provide children with the opportunity to come back to their schools during the summer and connect with fellow classmates, teachers, and staff. Maintaining the connection between families, students, and school staff is an important step in building a bridge to promote community engagement.
- Local food pantries, WIC centers, or Summer Meal Programs are other potential beneficiaries of the neighborhood food drive. Work with a local food pantry, WIC center, or other organization alongside your local school to create an event to remember! Contact the organization to learn more about the need of the communities (e.g., most wanted foods, if virtual drives are preferred, etc.) to ensure your efforts are aligned.
Include Children in the Planning Process: After deciding what organization the children would like to benefit with their community food drive, it’s time to start planning!
- There are many steps that children can be involved in to make the neighborhood food drive fun and successful including jobs such as calling the organization to determine what items they are in need of, deciding where and how to advertise the food drive, planning an event to transport or organize the collected items, or going out into the community to ask for donations.
- A neighborhood food drive serves as the perfect opportunity for children to develop skills in leadership within their community. The more responsibility children are able to take on, the better!
The Logistics: Once the organization has conveyed its needs to the families or schools, it’s time to figure out what the next steps are.
- First things first, the community needs to know about the food drive. It is often best to think about where community members often find themselves and where news about the food drive can be shared. Grocery stores, local parks, school billboards, faith-based community buildings, town halls, and doctor’s offices can all be used to spread the word about the food drive. Families can be a part of making posters and being physically present at these community locations to talk about when the food drive is happening, who it will benefit, and what is needed.
- Next, a day and time to hold the food drive will need to be planned. A large recreational facility such as a school or a rec center will often be the best option for gathering all of the collections and sorting them. This event will be dedicated to distributing the food collected to the organization that is being benefitted. Consider incorporating incentives for the event such as providing food, games, raffles, and other fun ways to connect with all members of the community!
Let’s Talk About SEL and Leadership: Planning the neighborhood food drive is a great opportunity for school-aged children to develop their leadership skills while participating in service learning opportunities that expand awareness and support the development of more socially-conscious members of society.
- School-aged children can comprise the board that is in charge of planning the food drive. Each child can oversee a specific part of the food drive such as advertising, calling community organizations, setting up the day-of event, and more. This will help students develop a sense of responsibility, confidence, and improve their communication skills with peers.
- A great way to initiate youth leadership is to have an adult volunteer to advise the board or planning committee. Children can choose to be a part of the planning committee where they will be doing most of the heavy lifting in preparation for the food drive and day-of events or choose to volunteer for the sorting and collection of food items.
- Encourage children to take on leadership roles by teaming up with your local school to reach out to families and have teachers/staff reach out to students they think may enjoy this opportunity, or even have parents accompany children at meetings to make them feel more comfortable.
Try to advertise the food drive in places all community members have access to and often visit. This can include town squares, city billboards, presented through loudspeakers at sporting events, and online.
Encourage all children to join the planning board for the food drive by asking teachers to connect directly with students, advertising on the school’s website and front billboard, at various community centers, and sharing information with parents and caregivers.
Create a fun name or theme for the food drive to excite students and families!
Food pantries may already be hosting their own food drives. Get involved with these events as a volunteer, coordinator, or outreach member and encourage children to do so as well!
It may be helpful to reach out to local TV or radio stations to spread the word about the food drive you are planning.
And most importantly, have fun engaging with your community!