Many children’s churches and ministries show their thanks this time of year by holding a food drive. What typically happens is everyone is excited at first but after a few weeks the donations wane and you realize that your canned food drive is severely lacking. Instead of bringing in food that would be helpful for a holiday meal or for stocking a pantry, donors bring in their unwanted extras. (I have even received a jar of pickled artichoke one year.) It can happen when money is tight or if someone simply forgets to shop. So what can you do to improve this year’s food drive? How can you avoid the inevitable trip to the grocery store to fill in the gaps?
Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve the outcome of your food drive. Try these neat ways to successfully hold a food drive in a children’s ministry. Simply covering a box with wrapping paper is not enough to bring excitement to your efforts. Think about implementing some of these exciting ideas and watch your food drive take off!
Make a list and check it twice. Instead of hoping for appropriate donations, create small flyers, half sheet or quarter size are perfect, listing the foods you want. Include suggestions like green beans, cans of soup and canned ham or whatever needs are in the community. By leaving the shopping up to the donor, you take your chances on what you will receive. Be specific.
Add items to the list that children like. For example, most children love macaroni and cheese and ravioli. Include this on your suggested shopping list and read it aloud in your children’s church or Sunday school. Ask the children which items they intend to bring.
Substitute that boring cardboard box with a red wagon or a toy box — something that children and families will want to fill.
Allow children to put their items in the storage container. It feels good to give; let children experience how giving feels. You could collect items in separate bins. For example, all of the soup cans could go in one bin and all of the vegetables in another. Children love to separate items.
Take photos of the donors as donations arrives. Set up a photo booth and give immediate recognition for donors. Your photo booth could be something as simple as taping a plastic tablecloth to the wall. One year we use the red tablecloth and made it look like a Campbell Soup can. We snapped photos of our donors after they dropped off their cans. We shared their photos on our Facebook page and then our newsletter. We had a great response!
I hope these ideas help you have the best food drive possible. You can do it and you are making a difference.
Want more ideas from Mimi? Visit her blog at Tools for Kids Church.