WHEAT is our local food pantry in West Haven CT. It’s a private, not-for-profit, tax-exempt program that exists largely upon donations of food, money, and the time and effort of volunteers. They serve about 5,000 West Haven residents, including about 1,000 children.
At Watson’s West Haven headquarters, we keep a red bin in the office for food donations, and we keep an eye on WHEAT’s website and facebook page, where they post their current, most-urgent needs. This month, for example, they are looking for donations of canned chili, jelly, macaroni & cheese, and hot cereals.
On Friday, we are brought WHEAT what we have collected so far, which is:
- 20 cans of Chili
- 40 boxes of Macaroni & Cheese
- 20 Boxes of Instant Oatmeal
- 144 cans of Tomato products (purees, sauces, and diced)
- 36 cans of Pasta Meals
- 24 jars Jelly
A steady supply of much-needed items can really help make a big difference for your local pantry. This is just one example of how business and organizations can have a real impact on ending hunger in their communities.
It just takes one person to get the spark started. That could be you! Ask your company or organizations to put a bin out for food collection, and post the items your pantry needs each month. Most pantries rely heavily on the donations of food and funds from their local community. The first step to helping is just getting the word out, creating awareness, and letting people know about food insecurity in your community.
Feeding America has great resources to help you get started with an awareness campaign.
- This map will give you a snapshot of hunger in your community: http://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2014/overall
- This page has the tools you need to get a team together to make a difference: http://www.feedingamerica.org/ways-to-give/set-the-table/
Even if you just start spreading the word about hunger in your company, and then share information like “Hey, did you know the grocery store has canned veggies on sale this week … just 0.39/can! The food pantry could use some….” Make it easy for people at the start. Remind them that, whenever they shop, they can pick up one or two extra items to set aside for donation. Letting them know about sales really helps. You could really be amazed at the results. It takes some work, in the beginning, to get it started, but with even a little encouragement, it could soon become a habit. Don’t get discouraged! It will take a little while. But after that, it gains momentum.
Do a Food Drive for a Specific Item
This is another good way to start. We did a couple specific drives this year and they went really well.
This is a picture from September 2016. September is Hunger Awareness Month, and the color for hunger awareness is Orange. We gave out T-Shirts to employees who did something that month to help raise awareness, donated food, or volunteered time to our food banks and pantries.
We wear our orange shirts on Fridays, further raising awareness, and it is a lot of fun.
In September, we learned that WHEAT was very short of hot cereal. The hot cereal shelf was completely empty. We did a drive for hot cereal, circulated the news about the need, and got a great response. We had over 100 boxes of hot cereal to deliver to WHEAT the next day. For our pantry, WHEAT, a good rule of thumb is 100 items on a shelf provides for about 1 week.
In November of 2016, WHEAT was short on Turkey Gravy for their Thanksgiving baskets. We were able to do two things (1) Because of a sale on gravy at Stop ‘n Shop, we were able to buy 116 jars and cans for about $70, which came from our office charitable fund. We also put out the word in the company and collected another 75 cans/jars from employee donations.
Having a single, particular item, like gravy is a good motivator. It was especially helpful because in this case, we knew they were short a specific number of jars. That gave us a goal, and we could track our progress against that goal. This really helps to get extra energy behind a food drive!