How to Organize a Canned Food Drive

by Jeff O'Kelley

Canned food drives are a great way to help any charitable organization that works with the homeless or families in need. Although they are most popular during the holidays, canned food drives provide assistant that many people and organizations need all year. Planning and organizing a canned food drive is a great community service project and can show children how to help others.

How to Organize a Canned Food Drive

Identify a charity to benefit from your project. Investigate charitable organizations in your area in order to identify one that will best benefit from your canned food drive. Charities such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens or church outreach projects are excellent examples. Contact the organization and discuss your project to identify any special needs and to obtain permission to use their name. Also inquire if they have any supplies such as bags, signs or boxes that could help with your drive.

Create a flier describing your project. A simple, one-page flier that identifies your group, names the charity involved and your project goal can be created by hand or on your home computer. Be sure to include important dates for your project, contact information for your group and a short wish list of items that would best benefit the receiving charity. Make enough copies of this flier to cover the target collection area that you identify in step 3.

Map out your target collection area. Using a local map, decide on an area that will best fit the goals of your drive. Focus on highly populated residential areas in a small geographical region. Don’t try to cover an extremely large area. Just a single square-mile area of homes can present a rather large collection zone. Divide the selected area into smaller units, to be assigned to teams of drop off and collection personnel.

Gather and distribute collection packets. Attach a copy of your flier to 1 to 2 bags to create a packet that will be distributed to each home. Make sure that the flier can be easily seen and will not be missed by the homeowner. Using the maps you created in the last step, divide your volunteers into small teams to distribute the packets to homes in your target collection area.

Collect the donations. On the date that you listed in your flier, assemble teams of volunteers to collect the donated food from your collection area. Volunteers with trucks or vans will make the collection phase easier.

Sort and pack the donated food. Once all of the donations have been collected, use volunteers to sort the food into specific categories. Items should be divided into groups such as vegetables, canned meats, fruits, soups and ready to eat foods, to help the benefiting charity store and distribute the items. Pack the sorted food into boxes for pickup or transport to the receiving charity.

Tips

  • Be sure that your flier clearly shows the date that you will be collecting the donations.
  • Local grocery stores will often donate shopping bags to help with your drive.
  • Have volunteers wear bright clothing when collecting food to improve visibilities to motorists.
  • People will donate boxed and bagged foods in addition to canned food. Be sure to take care when packaging these items.

Warnings

  • Never let volunteers collect on their own. For safety reasons, use the buddy system or work in teams.
  • Exercise caution with lifting bags of canned food. They can be extremely heavy.
  • Throw away donated items that show evidence of age or are open.

Items you will need

  • Volunteers
  • Paper or plastic bags
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Community map
  • Fliers

About the Author

Jeff O'Kelley is a professional photographer and writer, currently based in the Tampa, Florida area. His images and words have been featured by websites and publications such as CNN, Creative Loafing and Tampa Bay Times. O'Kelley holds associate degrees in telecommunications and website design from St. Petersburg College.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images