Eight Ways to Win Your School’s Food Drive

Hint: It’s not about winning.


Each fall, there are food drives happening in schools across the nation. A lot of schools and districts make it a competition to encourage giving. I do not have a problem with a competition as long as the students fully understand the big idea. Here are some ways to have a successful food drive.

1. Teach students to understand food insecurity.

Here is one of my favorite resources. But there are tons of resources to fit the needs of your students. And videos are super impactful. Try these as a starting point.

2. Make it personal.

Teach students to understand how students in your own school and area are impacted by food insecurity. Teach them empathy by researching local statistics. Let them know there are students in their classes that may be struggling with or suffering from food insecurity.

3. Set a goal.

Talk about the importance of goal setting and how to select an appropriate goal for your class. Help them to own it. Determine which unit to measure the goal (lbs, quantity, points- our school does this- 1 pt per can, 1 pt for 4 ramen, 2 pts for a box dinner, 3 pts for peanut butter). Have them think about what they feel like they could bring in and encourage them to stretch it a bit further. Then come to a reasonable class stretch goal.

4. Make their goal visual.

Create a chart or poster that helps students see their progress toward reaching their goal. Make it public, if possible, too. Display it outside of the room if you can. This creates a bit of motivation and competition for other students and teachers. And this is a good thing. Each year, I inevitably have students see our class’ giant goal poster and they express concern that another class will see it and try to beat our goal. I have them stop and think about the impact of that action. When they realize that if someone beats our lofty goal, then that just means more food for more families, then I know they really understand what the food drive is about.

5. Goal > winning.

Help them to know it’s not about beating other classes. Offer an incentive for the class if they reach their goal, even if they don’t win the competition. Because then they are rewarded for working together as a team/family toward a common service goal. When I approach the food drive this way, my students gain so much more than just feeding families. It is the best kind of authentic team building there is.

6. Collect money.

Instead of only asking for cans and goods, allow students to bring money. Sometimes it is hard for parents to get to the grocery store. Sometimes it is not logistically feasible to send pounds of food with students. Offer a collection jar that you keep in a secure place. Parents are more willing to send in money and students will donate their own money even when they don’t have a chance to go buy food. Towards the end of the drive, take the money and go to the bulk distributor or purchase the off-brand items to get the most food for the money.

7. Speaking of parents, include them!

Let them know your class goal and progress along the way. Parents love seeing their kids work together with their class to reach a goal and are willing to help when they know the hearts of the kids are in the right place.

8. Encourage your students to think outside the collection box.

Here are some examples of things my students have done in the past to collect more. Two students grabbed a wagon and went to their neighbors asking for donations. They brought in a lot of food just from their neighbors! Another student sent a box to work with his mom with a handwritten sign to ask co-workers to bring in food. He brought a big box full of goods. Other students have scoured their houses for change (couch cushions, car floorboards, change trays, etc.) to bring in several dollars which result in meals for families. Others have asked grandparents to donate. Give them a couple suggestions as ideas, but tell them to get creative. Their ideas are usually way better than mine!

Bonus strategy!

Have students ask the teachers and staff that do not have homeroom classes to donate to your class. All adults want to help, but this way- it helps your class meet their goal.

As you can see, there are endless wonderful lessons to be learned from a food drive (empathy, class/team building, goal setting and meeting, service, sacrifice, etc.) Have fun with it and go fill those food pantries!

Looking for more ways to connect with your students? Check out these Prayers to Pray over Testing Students post!

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