Food Drive Alternatives

Food Drive Alternatives

I never considered holding a food drive to be a potential waste of resources until I spoke to the CEO of a food bank in our state. As I stared up at the walls of dry goods available, she remarked, “I’m not saying food drives are a bad thing, but if you’re thinking about spending money to then donate goods, think again.”

Not all food banks are created equal, but in general, it’s far better to donate money than food.

See most food banks have what’s costed a “cost sharing” program through which food pantries can purchase additional goods at a significantly lower cost (at the food bank I visited, the cost was about $0.16/lb!)

Now as someone who has worked in fundraising and not-for-profits, I get the psychology behind donating a “good” versus money, but it’s time to re-consider where your dollar is going.

We’ve all seen those “brown bag offerings” at grocery stores, where you can “buy” a bag to then be donated to a family in need. It’s great that you want to help, but guess what? Not only is the grocery store still profiting from this good deed, but your $20 would go 100x further if given directly to your local food pantry or food bank.

Even if you were to shop at Aldi, $20 might get you 10-ish boxes of dried goods to then send off to someone in need.

But $20 at a food bank? Heh well that could get you nearly this entire pallet of Cheerios:

food drive money

The best part is that most food banks will allow you to donate funds to them and direct those funds for a specific purpose (i.e. if you’re looking to help one specific food pantry vs general food bank costs).

So if you’re considering hosting a food drive, might I suggest a few alternatives that are not only way more fun, but also far more beneficial to those in need.

Food Drive Alternatives

Easy fundraiser ideas that are a great alternative to food drives. Why you should donate money instead of food!

Hold a Garage Sale

If you’re going to be asking people for physical donations anyway, why not skip the food and go right for the goods. When done right, it’s easy to hold a successful garage sale and you’re not missing out on the “feel good” vibes people get from donating something other than money.

Partner with Food Trucks

Here in Springfield, IL (and well…pretty much everywhere these days) food trucks are a big hit. There’s little better than grabbing a breakfast burrito from my favorite food truck as I meander my way through our local farmer’s market…well except if said food truck was then donating a percentage of their proceeds to our local food bank! While it may take a bit more technical work and scheduling that a regular ol’ food drive, you might consider hosting an event when a number of food trucks come together in one specific area for a night and then donate part of their profits to your community food pantry.

What’s better than you getting dinner while helping someone else get theirs!

Penny Wars

food drive alternative penny wars fundraiser

This was a fun one my students came up with prior to my quitting my job at the college to become a professional blogger. Each club participating would receive one point for every penny donated, but would then be docked points for every silver coin donated “against” them. During this week long event, they raised nearly $300; more than enough to buy over 3,360 cans of tomatoes –

food drive donation ideas

Hold a Raffle

Once again if you’re going to ask for donations, why not ask for goods that can then be raffled off? Some of the baskets could even be “food centered” – i.e. a date night basket in which you have a box of spaghetti, some marinara, a movie rental coupon, and a bottle of wine. While it may only go for $15, that $15 can then be turned into 6 pallets of Nature Valley bars:

food drive alternatives

And that’s just one basket!

Run a Virtual Food Drive

Know someone who can build a simple website? Have them create a one page site that allows for monetary donations, but gives donors the opportunity to “shop” for the goods they wish to donate. When someone can see just how far their dollar will be stretched, they’ll be all the more likely to donate a bit more than they might were they simply shopping for products themselves.

Battle of the Bands

This is another one that I just LOVED putting on when I worked in Higher Ed. Not only is it a great opportunity to showcase the talent in your local community, but you’re almost guaranteed a massive turnout. Charge $5/person and hold a 50/50 raffle or sell t-shirts and you could be looking at raising an easy $1,000!

battle of the bands food drive alternative

Sell Those Tickets

We’ve all been to events where you could bring a canned good for your entry fee, but what if the company were to simply keep selling tickets and instead donate proceeds to a food bank? If you highlight where the money is going, it’s unlikely that you’d see a significant decrease in attendance, but you WOULD see a massive increase in how you’re helping your community.

food drive fundraiser ideas

I get it – as far as donations go, it feels far better to say “we collected over 1,000lbs of food this month!!” than simply “we raised $500 for the food pantry this month!!”

But put yourself in the shoes of a food bank employee and imagine getting twenty 50lb boxes of mixed donations – some expired, some smashed up beyond recognition, and sure plenty of good food…that now needs to be sorted, put away, and stored somewhere. While those donations will certainly help someone in need, the time, energy, and (yes even) money then impact just who is helped and how.

And if you still feel the need to do something beyond writing a check – or if you simply don’t have the funds to do so – consider volunteering your time at the food bank or pantry itself. That in and of itself is so incredibly valuable, not to mention is sometimes a volunteer opportunity you can do with children (note: always check with any NFP regarding their age requirements for volunteers!)

It’s important to give back and if you’re motivated to host a food drive, by all means, go for it. But if you really want to stretch your time and money, consider an alternative route that can make a much bigger difference.

Do you agree or disagree with the idea that donating money is better than food?

Comment below and let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Apocalyptic Brain: My Response to Hawaii’s False Alarm

Apocalyptic Brain: My Response to Hawaii’s False Alarm

I have what I call an “apocalyptic brain.”

The first time I realized that’s what it was when I was on my way to pick my babies up from daycare.

At the time, my daughter was eight months old and my son had just turned two. And because he had just turned two, he was moved to the “twos room” all the way on the other side of the daycare building.

So there I was, waiting at the red light to turn toward the daycare, and suddenly I was lost…

Tumbling down into this pit of chaos and confusion. Darkness all around and when I opened my eyes, there was pandemonium.

In my mind, a bomb had just went off, reducing half the city to ashes, and I had mere moments to get to the daycare. But once there, which direction do I choose? With both babies at either end of the building, how do I pick which child to go after first? What if something happens to one while I’m rescuing the other? Where will we go from there? Stay put or run?? How do I save my husband? Or do I trust he’ll find us? What if we never see each other again and something happens to me?? Who will make sure my babies are safe???

It wasn’t until a horn blared behind me that I realized the light had turned green. My knuckles screamed in protest as I pried my fingers from the steering wheel and turned into the daycare. Everyone safe. Everyone sound…well, almost everyone…

I consider myself (more-or-less) a logical person but even now, writing this piece, I can feel my chest tightening. Yes, I know the scene that played out wasn’t real, but in that moment? In that moment, it was everything and my inability to quickly find a safe solution has stayed with me ever since.

While I have since implemented various strategies and coping mechanisms to help me work through this anxiety, I awoke on Saturday January 13th to find myself once again being threatened by the chaos.

In case you’ve been living under a rock – which, uh, can I join you?? – Hawaii inadvertently sent a message out via its emergency alert system that a ballistic missile threat was inbound and residents were told to seek immediate shelter. Luckily it was a false alarm, but the fallout from it is far from over…

In the 24 hours that have followed, my newsfeed has been overtaken by stories of Hawaiian mothers and the panic they felt and articles on what people went through as they prepared to try and survive. I can already hear some of you telling me, “Well just stay off social media, Amber!” but that’s far easier said than done when it’s my job. When was the last time you tried going with social media for a day?

I know I shouldn’t read the stories, but my apocalyptic brain needs to know what happened, to absorb the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” of it all.

Then my primal brain jumps in and tries to allay my fears, to pretend that this isn’t an actual threat. That we’re not at risk for nuclear war. That we’re not lead by a man-child who uses Twitter to threaten other supposed leaders.

But honestly it’s my logical brain that continues to win out. I recognize that while an apocalypse probably isn’t looming (despite what my mother says), the chance of a war has become a very real possibility. All we can do is prepare and live our best lives possible, because frankly we can’t know how we’ll react in a situation such as this one. Sure, we could let our brains run away, send us into an anxious world of chaos, or we could choose to keep moving forward.

“Prepare for the worst, but expect the best”, right?

Yes, we have supplies in our basement should the worst happen. And yes, I’ll continue to plead “joke” with my Canadian friends about adopting me. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to live our lives and strive to do better. To volunteer more with our children. To be civically engaged. And to trust that this country will eventually be the brilliant land of freedom its so often thought to be.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t let the anxiety, fear, or anger win out. Choose to be better.” quote=”Don’t let the anxiety, fear, or anger win out. Continue to be the best, most kind person YOU can be and teach your children to do the same.”]

Believe it’ll get better from here and maybe together we’ll make it so.

Is Civic Withdrawal Now the Norm?

Is Civic Withdrawal Now the Norm?

As a frugal living blogger, you’ve seen me post from time-to-time about how I firmly believe living a “frugal life” requires not just letting go, but also giving back. Meaning, not only do you have to consciously let go of the “stuff” (and live a more minimalist lifestyle), but you have to be WILLING to give that which you may very well need – such as money.

Now I’m by no means encouraging you to put yourself in debt in order to better someone else’s life – that’s just silly – but rather to simply recognize that giving may very well be a part of the path you must travel in order to find the freedom you’re looking for.

When was the last time you helped a stranger in need? Or are you too busy? Too lost in your own chaos? Or, like many of us, are you too overwhelmed by constant access to information that sometimes you’re just blinded to it all?

Despite the motivational memes and inspirational pins flashing otherwise, we are often discouraged when it comes to shaping the world we’ll pass on to our children. We instead leave the tough choices to corrupt political leaders, money-hungry corporate directors, or social activists whose lifestyles seem alien and jarring. It is both sad and ironic that in a country born from a revolution, few of us do more beyond “signing” yet another online petition.

For many, civic withdrawal is now the norm.

Is it any wonder, though? You can’t log into Facebook or open your e-mail without being bombarded by sad stories of families in need, babies dying, or homes burning. It’s easier to ignore it, turn a blind eye and go on your merry way.

Those who don’t, those who choose to feel, are often thought to be crazy. Deemed “zealots” or “drama queens” by their peers.

When our individual autonomy is brought into question, by ourselves or others, our instinct is to bristle and call the others obsessed or ignorant. You can’t get onto any public thread these days without hate raging from all sides, name-calling like school yard bullies.

Perhaps it’s because we need this cynical submission to numb the pain of our own unrealized hopes…?

Imagine, though, if we applied that cynicism to all areas of our life. Rather than encouraging little Billy to try to hit the ball just one more time, we tell him to lay down the bat and go home, he’ll never go pro!

Or when our toddler runs up to us after a day away, rather than swoop her up in a hug, we jerk away and look at her with suspecting eyes, assuming she wants more from us than simply our love.

We have to take chances on people, to believe in them and motivate them, lest we crumble as an entire society. If we continue to turn in and look only at our screens, the physical world WILL gray and decompose.

Being an adult is brutal, especially if you’re an adult born of the “Millennial” generation.

You’re caught between those who recall life before “the Facebook” and those who think you’re old because you’re not sure just how SnapChat works, but you’re pretty sure you want to avoid any risk of d*** pics.

It’s exhausting trying to balance it all, to keep all those balls in the air while remembering to breathe.

We have to, though.

We must carry on and set a better example for our children.

We must be involved, not just from our computer screens, but actually, physically, involved.

March in a protest. Attend a political rally. Volunteer one weekend a month with your children.

While I by no means think everyone should constantly worry about everyone else, nothing will ever get better in this world if we all remain on autopilot, hiding behind our screens. Break free from your routine and become an active member of your community. ANYTHING that gets you out that door and physically involved in molding our world.

Change your world by changing someone else’s.

As Howard Thurman once said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What makes YOU come alive, my dear reader? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Homeless Kits: How Helping Others Helps You, Too

Homeless Kits: How Helping Others Helps You, Too

Making kits for the homeless might not seem all that thrifty, but it’s such a beautiful way to give back to your community. In fact, one of our core values as a family is volunteering and teaching our children to volunteer.

That said, part of a thrifty lifestyle is saving and making money in efficient and sometimes unique ways. This might mean shaving $10 off your grocery bill, renegotiating your cable (or cutting the cord all together), or starting up a side hustle walking dogs.

These are all great things that will improve your bottom line, but at a certain point, you need to reevaluate what is important to you if you truly want to become debt-free once and for all. If you live for your morning Starbucks routine, do you realize that dropping that $5/day coffee habit will save you $1,825 a year? Are you a smoker, because if so, that $7 a day is $2,555 a year up in smoke (literally!)

Evaluate the Essentials

Being aware of what we consider “essential” to our lives and what is ACTUALLY essential to our grandest dreams and fullest life is the first step towards really achieving those dreams. One great way to refocus yourself is to stop and look around you at those who may have significantly less than you.

Chances are good that if you live in a larger city, you have a fair amount of homelessness around you. While I’m not suggesting you compare your level of suffering to theirs, I will ask that you consider the concept of “essential” in light of their way of living versus your own. What do you throw out daily that could be of huge benefit to them? What do you refuse to give up weekly – like dinner out or that daily coffee run – that could drastically improve their life?

How Much Will It Cost?

I am not suggesting you completely alter your lifestyle for someone else, but just stop and think for a moment where that $5 coffee or breakfast or random goofy app on the Google Play store could go if you focused where you spent it. If you were spending $5/day on non-essentials, but cut 2 days a week out, you’d save $520 a year.

Would you significantly feel the loss of that “wasted” $10/week? Probably not – in fact, missing 2 of your 7 indulgences per week would make those other 5 more significant! In addition, you’d have another $520 to throw at a credit card or student loan or car payment. That’s a great deal!

But imagine for a moment that you socked away $5 a week and the other $5 you put towards improving the lives of those around you who are in poor circumstances. You’d still have a decent amount to pay off debt, you’d still NOT feel the sting of deprivation, and you’d be setting an example for your children and possibly DRASTICALLY helping someone else.

DIY Blessing Bags for the Homeless

During the winter, I like to create care packages for the homeless, but they are just as important during the summer. So I took my $5 to my local Aldi and looked at what I could get. A box of granola bars was $1.20 for 8, and a 24 pack of bottled water was $1.99. Add in a box of bandages and we’re at $5. This isn’t a lot, but hydration, some food, and some first aid can be a major deal when you’re living on the street.

 

blessing bags for the homeless

If you prefer to watch instead of read, check out my livestream below for this next part! —

If you were to get together with some friends/family and assign them each a $5-$10 grouping of items you could contribute a small amount but maximize the impact of each package.

Things to Include in a Homeless Kit

Some things we included were:

  • Hygiene products
  • Lip balm
  • Other non-perishable food items, like cereal bars, peanuts, dried fruit, trail mix, etc
  • T-shirts that would otherwise have been donated to Goodwill or thrown away. In addition, old ball caps or other hats are great during summer months.
  • Sunscreen
  • “Hot Hands”
  • We also printed out information on shelters, cooling centers, food banks, breadlines, and other places that help the homeless with day-to-day needs.

You can include a LOT in a gallon freezer bag, so turn to those for these kits. Again, Aldi or other cheaper grocers have those cheap. Pack each bag with essentials, and keep them in your car to give out as you come across someone in need.

Did you know you can change someone's life for less than $7?Click to Tweet

The Power of Giving

The power of a bunch of small sacrifices lumped together for a good cause can be dramatic, and not just in a dollars-and-cents sense. The impact of this giving can help alter your perception of what is necessary for you to be happy. It cultivates kindness and empathy in your children (and in yourself). It creates a sense of community and fosters responsibility. Thinking outside yourself creates perspective that is invaluable, and on top of everything else, you’re helping another person.

So trust me; the small self-denial it will take to give up some indulgence, even if it’s only scaling it back, is 100% worth it in the long run. You won’t miss it and you’ll be better in the long run for it.

Have you ever created a homeless kit before?

I’d love to hear other ideas/suggestions of what to include, post ’em in the comments below!

Spend Time Doing Good: Volunteer Ideas for Those With Young Children

Spend Time Doing Good: Volunteer Ideas for Those With Young Children

Volunteering with children is truly one of the best choices you can make as a parent.

It’s a great use of your time and should be an integral part of your child’s upbringing. While it can be hard to fit volunteering into an already busy day, there are ways to do it without it feeling forced or inconvenient.

There are also many volunteer opportunities for children, even those who might not yet be old enough to realize importance of philanthropy.

Volunteer Ideas to Do With Young Children

Make Cards

Make birthday or holiday cards to deliver to senior citizens at your local nursing home. Be sure to call ahead to see if there’s an age requirement for non-familial visitors.

Explain Angel Tree to Kids

During the holiday season, let your little one pick a couple tags off an Angel Tree. If “Santa” is brought up, you can explain that these children go without so much during the year, that Santa has requested some extra help to make sure they get all that they need.

Spend, Save, Donate

When teaching your children about money, be sure to talk to them about how important it is to donate when possible. Depending on the age of your child, it might be easiest to use something like a Moonjar to help them designate what money goes where. Encourage them to set a goal for donation and then let the child choose which organization gets the money.

ideas to get kids into volunteering

Clean Up Your Community

If you’re lucky enough to live in a relatively litter-free neighborhood, then consider visiting a local park or other area prone to trash. Use a pick up tool or grabber and make sure you wear gloves!

Donate to a Local Food Pantry

While it’s typically better to donate cash than food, everything helps in the long run. Take your child to the grocery store and let them help shop for food to donate to a local food pantry. If your child is old enough, you can also use this as an opportunity to learn about budgeting. Let your child know how much money is available and help him make healthy, economical decisions.

Make No-Sew Dog and Cat Toys

There are many DIY dog toy ideas that are easy for children to help with. Pinterest is definitely your friend here! Give your local animal shelter a call and see if they could use some new homemade dog or cat toys for their furry friends.

Talk to Your Local Library

Check in with your local library as many offer volunteer opportunities for all ages. Just make sure your little one knows how to use his “inside voice.” This is also a great opportunity to start to craft your child’s love for learning and reading.

Set Up a Home Recycling Center

Teach them about the importance of reducing waste and reusing when we can. Our recycling company doesn’t require sorting, but we still talk about how different kinds of products are recycled (i.e. glass vs plastic vs paper).

Sign up for a 5K

Most encourage families to participate, which is great if you’ve got a little one in a stroller! Allow your children to help fund-raise and educate them on the mission behind the organization you’re running for.

volunteer with young children

Donate That Which You Do Not Need

Have them sort and box up toys or clothes to donate. Giving away their own items might be a bit much to handle at first, so try reading a related book (like Too Many Toys by David Shannon) the night before or have them help you sort through your own stuff first. It’s a wonderful time for the whole family to benefit from decluttering!

Community Garden

Create a garden on a budget and save even more time by having your children help out. Not only will this help you save money on groceries, but you can donate any excess produce to your local food pantry.

Create Blessing Bags

Teach your child not to look the other way when there’s someone in need. Work with them to create blessing bags for the homeless (something that can cost you as little as $5 per kit!) If you’re uncomfortable handing them out with your children around, you can always call your homeless shelter and see about dropping them there.

Cook a Meal Together

There are many not-for-profit organizations that are always in need of food to provide to volunteers at their site. While your little one might still be too young to help at the organization, s/he can still be of great service! This is also a fun way to introduce them to the basics of cooking.

Draw Thank You Cards

Have your children color pocket-size “thank you” cards to give to those who help better your day – whether it be a nice cashier at the grocery store or someone who held the door open for you at the daycare. Teach them to see the good in everyone and to be thankful for those around us. I guarantee this one is sure to brighten your day, too!

Donations Instead of Presents

If your little one is old enough to understand, you can suggest s/he request donations for a not-for-profit instead of birthday presents. Around that same idea, you could encourage the child to donate any money received while keeping the other presents. Remember, this is about instilling a desire to volunteer, don’t push it so that it becomes a “have to” instead of a “want to.”

The most important part in all of this is to make sure you lead by example, not just during the service but in everyday life.

Volunteering means putting values into action. You can volunteer at the soup kitchen every weekend, but if you then throw out leftovers each night, will your child actually see the value in your work? Sure you worked together to pick out old toys to donate to the children’s hospital, but if you then reward him with a new present each time he behaves at the store, will he learn what it means to truly give of oneself?

Doing volunteer work with children is a great bonding opportunity and an even better teaching tool. Empower them to make a difference. Teach them no limits in changing their worlds.

Do you do any sort of volunteer work? What are your thoughts on involving young ones? Comment below and let me know!