As a food provision charity there are two things that are critical to our survival, food and money to buy food. Food drives are an integral part of our growth strategy, but the way we store and deliver food presents a unique set of challenges. For example;
Because food is stored in a non-refrigerated warehouse, only nonperishable food items can be used.
The backpacks we use are smaller than the standard size backpack and have to hold six meals. Single serving size items are always the best.
Single serving drink items must be shelf-stable also (not requiring refrigeration).
We cannot use any food item that comes in a glass container.
We try not to load kids up on sugar so, when possible, healthier, low sugar snack items are preferred.
Also, when doing a food drive it is better to focus on 1 to 3 items. A common occurrence is for donors to give "one of these and one of those". But when you're feeding 500 children 6 meals every weekend, sorting out onezies and twozies can be quite challenging. Every backpack has 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners, and a few snacks. Multiply that by 500 backpacks! Every weekend we need 1,000 breakfasts, 1,000 lunches, 1,000 dinners, 2 to 4 thousand snacks. Every school year we need 132,000 meals, that's 44,000 breakfasts, 44,000 lunches, and 44,000 dinners. That many meals is much easier to manage when food drives focus on a few specific items.
The photographs below show what types and sizes of food items work best. Also below are a few food drive ideas. We're always happy to get your thoughts and new ideas too!
PRINTABLE ITEMS LIST
Breakfast items are straightforward. Dry cereals are always a favorite among kids. The best and most convenient for the kids and the program are single serving packages. Small boxes of cereal work well too and can actually feed more than one child for 3 to 4 days. But boxes need to be 8 to 10 serving size in order fit inside the child-size backpacks we use. Whenever possible we try our best to provide healthier cereals rather than those with high sugar content. Oatmeal is always a hit with kids too and the single serving packages work best.
Lunch items are not always as predictable as breakfast. Sometimes lunch items can double as dinner items and visa versa. Ideally lunch items consist of a can of soup or chili, crackers or flat bread, peanut butter and jelly, canned tuna or chicken meat, Vienna sausage with pork & beans, single serving macaroni and cheese, and lunch-to-go meals. Again, container size is always a consideration due to the space available in a backpack. A good rule of thumb is, whatever amount of food a child could consume at a single lunch serving. Glass containers cannot be used. Plastic containers or cans only.
Dinner items can be similar to lunch items or interchangeable lunch/dinner use. Dinner is typically a heartier meal than lunch and dinner items often end up being shared with siblings. For that reason larger serving sizes are good, as long as they fit in the backpack with everything else. Dinner items include pasta w/sauce, a box of macaroni & cheese, canned meats like spam, Vienna sausage, tuna, chicken, all types of canned beans, canned vegetables, hearty soups, Chef Boyardee products, chili, dinner-to-go meals and other MRE's (meals ready to eat), etc.
FRUIT and SNACKS
Fruit and snacks are always the fun foods for kids! We don't always have it to give but when we do we like to give items that are healthy and nutritious without crossing "boring, good-for-you" treats. When buying or collecting fruits and snacks, think in terms of what you would want your child to eat. Canned fruits and single serving fruit cups are great, so are fruit chews and roll-ups, apple sauce, Capri Sun, etc. Healthy choice snacks are preferred such as granola bars and protein bars, and fruit chews. The challenge with snacks is finding something that tastes good and good for a child, but the reward is happy face and a full belly!
FOOD DRIVE IDEAS
If you, your company, church, or social organization would like to do a food drive for Got Your Back San Diego, here are some ideas that might make your efforts easier and more productive.
Have a personal purpose that your organization can rally around. Articulate your purpose to your staff, employees, fellowship and friends in ways they connect with and get excited about. For example, supporter Keller-Williams Realty in Carlsbad does an annual event they call RED DAY (Renew, Energize and Donate), an all-day event dedicated to celebrating the Company’s commitment to improving local communities. For Red Day 2016 the entire staff spent all day doing a highly spirited, highly competitive food drive for Got Your Back that produced over 4,000 pounds of food. It was amazing! A little competition can dramatically increase the amount of food a drive produces. Think of ways to publicly honor or reward the top producers, i.e. a nice wall plaque, a free lunch with the boss, or a preferred parking spot for the month or year.
Have a plan. Food drives can be an in-house event where people bring food to a single location, or they can be out in the marketplace in many different venues. For example:
> One of our supporters, a church, holds a one month long food drive in-house every year. People are reminded about it every week in the church bulletins and sermons on giving and caring for the poor and less fortunate. Kids are also encouraged to bring a can of soup each week to Sunday School and then, on the last weekend of the month, the entire congregation walks local neighborhoods, knocking on doors, handing their neighbors a pre-printed list of the food items needed, and asking for a donation. They also make sure everyone they see gets an invitation to attend church. This well-planned project generates 2000 to 3000 pounds of food for Got Your Back and creates awareness of the church in their community.
> Another group of supporters, a local Girl Scouts of America troop, spent all day on a Saturday going door-to-door through their local neighborhoods asking people to donate food. They asked the the donors to leave the food on their porches and said they would be back the following day to pick it up. When they went back on Sunday to pick up the food they found most people did not participate, some that did gave out-dated items that were in their cupboards for years, and to add insult to injury, a pack of coyotes came through the neighborhood and helped themselves to some of the food. Needless to say, the girls were disappointed with the 12 pounds of food that took two long days and a lot walking to raise but they were determined to try again. So the following weekend they got permission from the manager at their local Ralph's grocery store to stand outside of both entrances and hand a list of food items to every person entering the store, and asking them buy one of the items and donate it to Got Your Back on the way out. The response was phenomenal! Instead of buy one can of soup or beans, people bought 6 and 12 packs. Instead of one box of mac & cheese people donated by the case. The girls worked in shifts of 2 hours with 2 girls at each entrance. In just 6 hours they raised 3600 pounds of usable food items! A great plan!
Tie a food drive to a special event. Often times you will see concerts, car shows, and other entertainment venues have a charity benefactor at an event. This is a great way to demonstrate that your business gives back to the communities that pay to attend your events. For example, every year Coastal Music Studios puts on a benefit concert called CHRISTMAS 4 KIDZ. The entire concert is children and their goal is to help other children here in San Diego by meeting practical needs such as food and other resources. For the last three years Got Your Back San Diego was one of the benefactors of their concert/food drive event. If you are a member of an organization that hold special events, linking up with a local charity is a great way to bring awareness to your organization and the charity.
Got Your Back
Girl Scout Patch
These are just few food drive ideas to help get your creativity flowing. There are so any ways to have a successful food drive and we always appreciate it when people share their ideas and experiences with us. If you have ideas you would like to share please send them to (email)
The Eric and Beatrice Anders family is a food drive all by itself! Bea got word we were short of breakfast items so the family went to Costco and loaded up Dan's monster truck with enough single serving packs of oatmeal to finish out the school year!
Even our founder, Sue McLeod gets hands-on. Sue can often be found at the local food bank doing her own one-woman food drive, going through hundreds of canned items to find the right ones for the Got Your Back project
Our friends on the left at Vineyard North Church had a successful food drive encouraging the congregation to participate.
On the right is our faithful ally in the fight against child hood hunger, Keller-Williams Realty in Carlsbad. One day a year all the agents take a day off work to compete with each other to donate the most food. The 2016 Red Day (as they call it) netted over 4,000 pounds of good stuff for kids!