3 Ways to Increase Participation in your Canned Food Drives

Hello! Welcome to our Project Stella Blog! One very popular, and much needed, service project that schools and organizations have during the Holidays in a Canned Food Drive.  Anywhere you go you see bins collecting nonperishable items.  Because they are so popular for groups to do, they are often overlooked.

In this post, I will provide you with three tips to help “shake up” your canned food drive and increase participation, as well as, get more quality items to donate that the food pantries need.

New here? I also have the following blog posts to help you plan events that engage youth with less stress.

Tips to Help Youth Lead Volunteer Service Projects

4 Ways to Fund your Service Project for Youth Volunteers

Easy Holiday Service Projects for Families

If you want more tips and step-by-step guides to planning events and sprograms, check out my Insider’s Online Vault.

Canned food drives are a great service project for young volunteers. But other than dropping the nonperishable goods off in a bin, there is not much else to engage the youth and create awareness about the issues of hunger and homelessness.  Oftentimes, the youth will go through their cabinets at home and pick out the items that they don’t like and donate them (so GUILTY!).

So, how can you step up your game and take your Canned Food Drive to the next level? I have used these three ideas before and got some really great results. 

Canned Food Drive Tip 1: Create a Recipe Book

Tired of getting the “rejected” canned food items that no one really eats? To encourage that donations are made of more commonly requested items, let your youth know that they will be creating a recipe book based on what is received.

Things you need:

– List of items that are donated or that you want to be donated

– Provide this list to all the youth and have them submit a recipe they find

– Have a small committee responsible for collecting the recipes, typing them in a booklet, and then printing them out.

– Join forces with a community sponsor who could help print the recipe book. You would need enough copies that the food pantry can hand out during a two week period.

Canned Food Drive Tip 2: Hold a “Mystery Basket” competition

Create some awareness about your Canned Food Drive and involve local community members.  At the end of the drive, everyone that donated is invited to a Local Celebrity Mystery Basket cooking competition.

You need two of the common items  (ramen noodles?) donated and then two of the more unusual items donated to go in the Mystery Basket. Your Celebrity Chefs will make a dish that will be judged.

Don’t have a culinary kitchen available? No worries. Make the competition more interesting by just providing microwaves!

Canned Food Drive Tip 3: Build Structures from Canned Goods

This is a super fun way to increase participation and increase your donations. If you are doing a canned food drive at your school, you can make this a competition – similar to Homecoming Floats.

To begin, let students know that they will be collecting nonperishable items but before they are donated they are going to build a structure from the items they collect.  Think Grocery Store canned good structures for Football season or for the Holidays.

Things you need:

– A theme – Seven Wonders Around the World, Holiday Celebrations, Patriotic, School Spirit, etc.

– Time to plan – Participants will want to draw out the structure they want to build. Decide if any other supplies are needed to make the structure happen.

– Time to collect items – give the students a week to get donations. There might be specific items they need. Remind everyone that when the structures are completed and judged, all items will be donated to a local food pantry.

– Judges – have three nonpartial judges. They can be from the community. Have someone who represents the food pantry serve as a judge. You can also use Social Media to judge – Post pictures of each structure and see which one gets the most “likes”.

I hope these ideas will help you energize your canned food drive and efforts to engage youth in service.  Make sure to share this post with other organizations and schools that have canned food drives during the year.

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