The issue of food insecurity facing our nation is more pressing than ever. According to Feeding America, unemployment and food insecurity have soared in the wake of the pandemic. In 2021, 53 million people turned to food banks and community programs for help putting food on the table. Given this challenge, your chapter may want to host a food drive. Here are five ways to make the most of the experience:

1. Ask Your Area’s Food Bank What They Need.

Do not assume you know what products or items are most needed. Food banks are the experts. Lean on them for advice on what items to donate. For example, our school enjoys partnering with a local nonprofit organization, Bayside Community Center. Based on their suggestions, we do our best to collect and donate food items that have low to no sodium and sugar levels, since recipients are low-income seniors and families struggling with chronic health issues. We also collect and donate organic items to keep our community members eating healthy. Creating a specific list for your community based on your partner’s input is a best practice of partnership and community engagement.

2. Use the Drive as an Opportunity to Educate the Community.

Create lessons for advisories or pre/post-school gatherings. Allow NHS students to lead these lessons. Additionally, ask teachers to consider incorporating the drive into their curriculum with some warm-up questions that focus on food insecurity, for example. NHS students could also serve as visiting teachers to lead the activities. If possible, seek out a group of students and teachers that would enjoy more formally making food insecurity a part of their curriculum. Service-learning is a wonderful pedagogical tool to use when teaching about this issue. At Francis Parker School, we are using this year’s food drive to educate our students about food insecurity locally and worldwide. Partnering with Nutriment International, which several NHS members brought to my attention last year as part of their NHS project, our entire high school will be participating in a food packaging event during advisories this year. Food drives are teachable moments, indeed!

3. Get More Members of Your School Community Involved.

It can be beneficial to have all hands on deck for a successful food drive. Involve multiple constituent groups in planning and implementation. Let students determine the best ways to impact their peers and the community. Also, don’t forget to engage parents. At Parker, we use drives as an opportunity to bring each division together: elementary, middle, and high schools. Members of our student council at the elementary school help make signs to display and encourage participation by holding them during drop off and pick up. They also visit their peers’ classrooms to spread the word.

4. Communicate Frequently and Through Various Platforms/Methods.

Digital advertisement, emails, and the use of social media are important for the success of your drive, but flyers and signage, especially in drop off and pick up areas, are key to getting the word out as well. Additionally, most people don’t donate because they have never been asked directly! Please ask.

5. Check Expiration Dates.

Families often mistake food drives as opportunities to clean out the pantry and forget to check “best by” and “use by” dates. This creates unnecessary work for the agency that will receive your food donations later. Take the extra time to sort food as it arrives and encourage families to check dates in your drive communications. Also, encourage families to donate healthier food that they also would eat. A good message to communicate is this: If you wouldn’t feed it to your family, don’t donate it.

To learn more about organizing a food drive at your school, visit Fighting for Food.

About the Author

Kevin Dunn is an NHS adviser at Francis Parker School in San Diego, CA, He has been an adviser for eight years.

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