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 profitable 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!


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!