A food bank is an organization that receives donations of non-perishable food and distributes it to agencies and people in need of food. In the United States alone, more than 49 million people do not have access to sufficiently nutritious food. If you want to fight hunger, start a food bank of your own. Start by finding a space to store food and make a food drive to create a reserve. Then, meet up with the customers in your community and start distributing the food on a monthly or bi-weekly basis.
Part 1 of 3: Establish Your Food Bank
Step 1. Find a place to store food
The amount of donations you receive can vary throughout the year, so find a place that is large enough to store everything. If you work with a local church or homeless shelter, these locations may have an additional pantry or room where you can take food donations.
If you are self-employed, perhaps at first you can start by storing things in your basement or garage
Step 2. Contact local organizations for food donations
Working with churches, schools, and local government agencies can help you get food donations. These organizations can also refer you to people in need of food to build your customer base in your community.
If there are other food banks in your area, notify them of your operation. Some banks may have surplus food that you can buy, or they may be able to share helpful professional advice with you
Step 3. Schedule meetings with your potential customers
Customers are the individuals and families who will come to your food bank to receive food. Follow up with clients that nearby organizations have recommended to you. You can also post brochures or announcements around town to reach out to your community. Then ask people who need food assistance to meet with you. This will help you better assess the nutritional needs of your community.
Determine how many individuals and families you will provide food for, the type of food they need, and the frequency of distribution
Step 4. Gather the necessary food consumption information from your customers
Ask people who use your service to write down their dietary needs, family size, and food allergies. These records will help you better assess what to prepare for people. You will also be able to know what type of food you should gather in general.
- It is okay to ask how long they will need help or why they need food assistance in the first place. These situations are often the result of injury or illness.
- Anyway, remember to be respectful. The dialogue should not look like an interview, but a conversation.
Part 2 of 3: Gather the Food
Step 1. Organize a food drive
This is the main method that food banks often use to collect donations. To get more people to hear about the drive and make donations, contact local schools, churches, office buildings, or gyms and ask if they are willing to host. Specify the type of food you want to collect (for example, canned goods, pasta and bread, etc.). Then hang posters or flyers around the area to let people know about the collection.
You can ask supermarkets to donate food for your drive. In this way, they will gain good publicity and you will significantly increase the amount of food you collect
Step 2. Collect donations through donation boxes
Donation boxes for food banks are often set up outside supermarkets, offices, and other local businesses. If you want to place a donation box in front of a store, make sure the owner gives you permission first.
At times when certain foods don't make it to the donation box, you may need to buy food when stocks are low
Step 3. Contact supermarkets for food donations
Go to the shops in person and explain that you have started a food bank for the community. Ask if the store regularly has food that, instead of throwing away, you can donate to the bank. Supermarkets may be willing to donate items that are near the expiration date and other leftovers.
- If supermarket supervisors doubt your claim, you can show them an email with the name of the food bank with the address. You can also invite them to come to the bank on the day you distribute the food.
- Also, remind merchants that they won't lose money if they donate food, as they might throw it away anyway.
- If stores accept donations, you may have to drive to the facility. Don't expect merchants to bring you food.
Step 4. Process the products as you receive them
Install shelving in your bank to separate items based on their type (eg canned goods, boxes, breakfast foods, fresh foods, dry goods). Double check the expiration date and throw away anything that is no longer suitable to eat.
Step 5. Separate the dietary alternatives from the rest
When collecting products that have a specific base (gluten-free, dairy-free, or sugar-free), store them in a specific area. When people with diabetes or specific nutritional needs approach the bank, allow them to directly review and choose some products of their preference.
For example, you can store these products in a different section of shelves or cabinets
Part 3 of 3: Distribute the food in the community
Step 1. Organize a distribution schedule
Once you have food to distribute, determine when people or agencies will receive the food. Some food banks only distribute donations once or twice a month, while others do so almost every day. Get in touch with your potential customers and let them know when the bank will be open and when they can come to look for food.
You may also be able to work with other food banks in the community. For example, if you alternate meals in which each bank distributes the food, you will be able to help more of the community
Step 2. Prepare food donation boxes
It's best to prepare them the day before distribution so you don't have to rush to fill out boxes while customers wait. Try to incorporate a variety of foods into each box. For example, each box might have a loaf of bread, a protein source (such as peanut butter), a few cans of soup or vegetables, and pasta.
If you prepare individual packages, take into account how many people the food should serve
Step 3. Collect a small fee from clients
While some food banks have legal nonprofit status and do not charge their customers, many banks require people in need of assistance to pay for the food. Generally, this is a minimum weekly rate that helps offset operating expenses and allows you to purchase goods during months when you receive few donations.
If customers need food but can't pay, you can charge them a nominal price (extremely minimal collaboration)
Step 4. Find additional financing
Food donations can decrease at certain times of the year, especially around the holidays, when they are most needed. Contact community groups for monetary funding or inquire about government funding programs. By getting additional funding, you can fight hunger more consistently.
You can also contact large or national or international food bank organizations for financing and food. There are several organizations that work with local or regional food banks
- You can get packing boxes in supermarkets. Talk to someone in a store and ask them to reserve some boxes for you. This will also help reduce costs.
- If you don't want to charge a fee and would rather be a non-profit organization, consult a certified public accountant or an attorney.
- Depending on the amount of interest in the food bank and the amount of food you can distribute, you may have to set requirements for your services. This will ensure that those who really need the donations receive them.