How to Organize a Canned Food Drive as a Teen

These days, it is a great sign to see lots of teens in high school passionate about giving back to their communities and engaging in societal issues like helping with food insecurity. While your high school might have dedicated clubs that focus on organizing canned food drives, this article is focused on teens that may want to create a canned food drive of their own in their community. 

Step 1: The Plan

A good canned food drive that raises awareness and lots of donations always starts with a good plan. 

To get started, you can find a group of friends that are interested in helping you with the canned food drive. While this is optional, a great group of friends around you will help with finding a network of people to spread the word about the food drive and also help with the logistics of accepting donations. 

Next, write out a timeline for the food drive. You should include key dates like when you start accepting donations, when you stop accepting donations, and when you want to drop off the canned food donations to a local food bank. It is also really important to choose a food bank in your area that you want to donate the goods to and you can use our locator to do just that. 

Another big step is finding a central location where members of the community can drop off their donations during your allotted time frame for accepting donations. You can reach out to your local high school and see if they can set up a safe space in the lobby or cafeteria and allow donors to enter during a specific time. While COVID may be difficult to navigate in terms of finding safe locations to donate, other ideas include drop boxes in local government buildings, libraries, or other public places. Of course, keep in mind that the canned food should be dropped off in a place that is safe where no one will steal the goods and the goods themselves won’t be damaged due to weather and storage conditions. 

Also, make sure that you clearly outline what types of donations you will accept. For example, do you want to only accept canned goods or are you willing to accept pasta and other long shelf-life items? These are all decisions that you can make and also make sure that the items that you are accepting align with the items that the food bank that you are donating to accept. 

After you have your dates and donation place in order, decide who you want to contact and how you want to reach out to these people who would like to donate. Some clever ways to increase donations are partnering with your high school by emailing an administrator (principal, teacher, vice principal, etc), partnering with an event at your high school like a Friday night football game that draws large crowds (although COVID may have eliminated these opportunities), joining your town’s community Facebook groups and posting details about the canned food drive, and even writing to your local mayor for help with publicizing the canned food drive. Throughout the networking phase, it is important to outline to potential donors the timeline of the food drive that you established and the reasons behind why you want to launch a canned food drive. 

Step 2: The Execution

Once all the planning is done and the specified date for accepting donations comes around, it is time to execute on your plan! 

Keep reaching out to members of the community, friends, family, teachers, and students that might donate. This will be an ongoing process until you close your donations, so keep at it to maximize your donations!

It is also important to check up on your donation box when people start donating. This is really important in order to filter out items that don’t fit the criteria for donations and also to make sure that the donations are being kept in a safe environment. 

Step 3: The Donations 

Once the donation period has ended, it is now time to collect all of your donations and drop them off to the food bank that you want to donate to! 

As you pick up your donation box, scan all of the items to make sure that they are not expired, are relatively in good condition (nothing broken or tampered with), are within your donation criteria and can be accepted by the food bank. 

After everything has been scanned, it is time to drive over to the food bank and donate your items! 

Pro tip: it is a really nice touch to keep track of all the people that donated to your food drive (if you can) and send them a thank you note. That way in the future when you run another food drive, you will know who you can contact for donations. This can be done through offering donors the option to put a post-it note on their donations or write their names and contact info in a book right next to the donation box. 

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