How to Host A Food Drive

Minis always need food. Some host food drives in answer, but according to Feeding America, “A hastily-organized local food drive can actually put more strain on your local food bank than you imagine.”

There are lots of guides and how-tos circulating, but ELCA World Hunger’s “Road Map to Food Drives” is a favorite. Geared for church youth groups, its easy-to-follow procedure and suggested activities will get you excited about hosting a food drive in your home worshiping community. See it here!

For the Road Map condensed, read on!

Formation of “teams” streamlines the process and divides the workload. Could be teams of one or several, but you may want to choose a point person.

  1. Organization Contact: You’ll connect with folks inside the hosting organization, first making sure the organization is on board, then discussing ways to get the whole organization involved. (May need to attend a meeting.) When speaking with potential food drive hosts, ask about dates; when might a food drive be most successful and avoid conflict with other events? Ask if there is space to store food collected and who to contact to get an announcement out to the wider organization.

  2. Community Contact: You’ll reach out to local food pantries about what would most help. Look for places nearby, then email or call. Ask questions like these. Which foods or items are most needed? Are there any unneeded/unacceptable items? How should your group sort donations? When/where should you drop off? Do they have suggestions for making the food drive a success? Who should you contact with further questions, and do they have questions for you?

  3. Promoter: Your team has two jobs. The first is to brand the food drive (Holiday Theme? Trick-or-Treat/Turkey Trot—where flyers are pre-delivered and food is collected at predetermined time? Added bonus: these can raise your organization’s profile. Maybe a friendly competition with a poster board of current totals, leader annoucements, and a prize!) Your second job is to make sure lots of folks know about the food drive. See if you can hang posters onsite, at local stores, and on coffee shop bulletin boards. Make posters with dates, times, and local hunger statistics. (Be sure to take posters down afterward!) Then, routinely communicate wherever your network is listening until the food drive is over. When the drive is over, communicate its success with the organization, with media, etc.!

  4. Coordinator: You’ll handle donations from placement of boxes and bins to sorting (Keep plastic bags for transporting!) and throwing away expired food (If you aren’t sure, throw it out!). Count items donated and take pictures for the Promoters to share in post-drive communications. Finally, you’ll deliver!


Now that you know who, here’s HOW!

One Month Before: Introduce idea and choose roles. Organization and Community Contacts should have first conversations.

Three Weeks Before: Organization/Community Contacts report.

Two Weeks Before: Promoters develop promotional materials and start publicizing the drive.

One Week Before: Promoters, keep talking! Coordinating Team should find a place to store food and arrange transportation.

During the Food Drive: Promoters, you’re still talking! Coordinating Team may begin sorting.

After the Food Drive: Coordinating Team sorts and delivers. Promoting Team develops and shares communications celebrating the successful food drive. All teams participate in a wrap-up, answering questions like, “What went really well? What things could be improved,” and “What are our next steps?" How can we address food insecurity in our community in another way?”

And there you have it! The bones of hosting a food drive! To put some meat on them, go here!

How to Map Your Mini Pantry!

Do you host a mini? Have you seen the map and wondered, “How do I put my mini on it?” This step-by-step guide is for you!

  • The quickest route is to start from here. You can find the map from the Little Free Pantry home page, too; click “MAP.”

  • Now, click the “ADD PANTRY” button seen here.

map blog.PNG
  1. In fields, “Pantry Name,” “Your Name,” and “Email Address.” Please note that the “Your Name” and “Email Address” boxes are checked, which means they will be public. Should you wish to make either private, uncheck the appropriate box/es.

  2. “Address of Pantry Location” is the next, larger field. For accurate map pin placement, please enter the address as you would address an envelope. Lots of cities share names and street names. Usually, the map is smart, but every once in a while, a pin goes rogue!

  3. Next, you MUST indicate Type of Box, “Little Free Pantry, “Blessing Box,” or “Other.” If you don’t, after clicking submit, you’ll see the angry red letters! (I admit to not remembering why I thought this information was critical.)

  4. “Receive Suggestions” is checked. If you leave it checked, a button that reads “Email Steward” will appear at the end of your map project page. Probably goes without saying that folks may email you by clicking it. Don’t want the button? Simply uncheck the “Receive Suggestions” box.

  5. You may add two photos. Consider uploading photos from angles that communicate location; an image of your project from the street is helpful.

  6. The map likes smaller images. Before approving submissions, I check orientation, download and resize if necessary. Re-size and I’ll love you forever.

  7. Tell folks about your project in the “Description” field. Anything you want folks to know—more about the location, about the stewards, why. Anything. In addition to nonperishables and paper goods, each mini contains a story about its community. Tell us.

  8. The Shipping Address…I’ve no anecdotal evidence that a steward’s received a shipment because that steward included a shipping address with their map submission, but I included it as an option in case. If you’re the “lots of lines in the water type,” please indicate your shipping address exactly as you’d address an envelope and know that the information will be public.

  9. Anything you want me to know? Put it in the “Notes to the Curator” field!

  10. Click “Submit.”

  11. If all’s well that ends well, a screen will pop up that looks like this.

map blog1.PNG

Your submission will not immediately appear on the map, as all submissions are reviewed and approved (are images right side up and appropriate, are pins accurate, etc.). Typically, your project will be represented on the movement map within a week!

Thank everyone of you who’ve taken the time to go through this process. (That blue swath IS satisfying.) More important, folks in need use the map to connect with the resources you provide. Thank you, thank you for being there.


About a month ago, I launched a Patreon campaign. Launch was both enlightening and moving. Asking for help is hard. And sometimes when it comes, it’ll come from people you don’t expect, which will be inexplicably emotional and meaningful, though you’ll be hard-pressed to name the meaning.

Today, Patreon asked all its creators to participate in the #ThankYouPatrons campaign. To thank mine, I stocked the LFP Pilot with fixings for Thanksgiving sides, including recipes.


I spelled one patron’s name wrong and left another off entirely. (Thank you, too, Susan Hartman.) But these folks didn’t help me because I don’t need help. They helped because I do. #ThankYouPatrons

For a printable shopping list and recipes, click here.
To become a Patron, click here.

Coming Together through Good

A few days ago, a man named Eric emailed me about a just-launched mini pantry, “Community Pantry,” in Concord, NC. He attached a copy of the Concord newspaper presser, titled “Diverse Groups Come Together for Good.” The first paragraph reads as follows:

At a time when intense tribalism grips our country, two diverse Concord groups have found a way to come together for good.  Pastor Nathan King, representing Trinity United Church of Christ, and J. Rodger Clark, Director of Planned Giving - The Humanist Foundation representing North State Humanists, have joined forces to create, dedicate and support a “Community Pantry”. 

In her book Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown defines the term “Common Enemy Intimacy.” “Common Enemy Intimacy is counterfeit connection and the opposite of true belonging. If the bond we share with others is simply that we hate the same people, the intimacy we experience is often intense, immediately gratifying, and an easy way to discharge outrage and pain. It is not, however, fuel for real connection.”

We may bond over the “bad,” but these bonds aren’t lasting; we will retreat to our tribes. We come together through good. In Concord, NC, “Community Pantry” is one such conduit.

Grace After Meals

We end this meal with grace.

For the joy and nourishment of food,

The slowed time away from the world

To come into presence with each other

And sense the subtle lives behind our faces,

The different colors of our voices,

The edges of hungers we keep private,

The circle of love that unites us.

We pray the wise spirit who keeps us

To change the structures that make others hunger

And that after such grace we might now go forth

And impart dignity wherever we partake.

Find “Grace After Meals” in John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. If, like me, you are moved by his writing, you might enjoy listening to Krista Tippett interview him for her podcast, On Being. Listen here!

Grace Before Meals

As we begin this meal with grace,

Let us become aware of the memory

Carried inside the food before us:

The quiver of the seed

Awakening in the earth,

Unfolding in a trust of roots

And slender stems of growth,

On its voyage toward harvest,

The kiss of rain and surge of sun;

The innocence of animal soul

That never spoke a word,

Nourished by the earth

To become today our food;

The work of all the strangers

Whose hands prepared it,

The privilege of wealth and health

That enables us to feast and celebrate.


From John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us

How You Can Help Hungry Veterans

Last week, I received an email that read, “Is there any food pantry helping soldiers and veterans in Houston, TX?”

Logistically, mini pantries can't really support specific people; anyone might come along and take what's inside.

If you are moved to learn more/do something about veterans experiencing hunger and/or homelessness, here are a few resources. If you know of resources not included, please leave a comment!

A Veteran's Tale

Shelley Roundtree served in Afghanistan, leaving the U.S. Army in 2013.

Because of IT problems subsequent to implementation of the Forever GI Bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2017, for months hundreds of thousands of veterans have not received GI Bill benefits.


Roundtree must now choose between public transportation to class and food. Often, he goes to bed hungry. Says Roundtree, “I’m about to lose everything that I own and become homeless. I don’t want to be that veteran on the street begging for change because I haven’t received what I was promised.”

Someone…fix this.

Click through here for Phil McCausland’s story.

Summer Temperatures and Mini Pantries

The following blog is part internet "facts" and part Jessica McClard's loose brain associations. She is NOT a scientist. Please take what she says with a grain of salt and certainly not as anything remotely resembling evidence-based practice. 


“I worked in a grocery store while in college, and we routinely had non-refrigerated trucks parked for hours in the 100+ heat awaiting our unloading them.” - busboy789

You don’t have to look hard online to find anecdotes like this one. But Heloise says to keep all canned foods should be kept at 70°F or below...

This time of year, most folks with questions about stewarding a Little Free Pantry have one in common: What do we do when temperatures heat up?

LFP turned two in May...two Arkansas Summers. Turnover remains brisk. Just yesterday, I stopped by to put a few things inside, and a carload of grown men pulled in behind me and took most everything. Less than a minute.

When I polled the LFP Stewards Group, asking, “Which of these describes your approach or experience stocking projects in Summer temps?”

  1. “Items do not stay long enough to become unsafe,” or...
  2. “We ask folks to keep cans back until temperatures moderate," 

30 stewards indicated the former. One controls for temperatures. To do that, stewards must either collect and distribute all donations, or post some kind of notice at the site. Maybe share something like this:


Even then, without eyes on the box 24/7, someone could go right ahead with that can of green beans (likely gone before you'd ever know it). In other words control is near impossible. But that doesn’t mean we should just...


According to the USDA, it's best to store food at temperatures below 85 °F. Many of us won’t see 85° consistently until October. High temperatures (over 100 °F) are actually harmful to canned goods. The longer items are exposed, the more harm done. “Harm” ranges from nutrient loss and a change in appearance for food in glass containers to bacterial growth.

Different bacteria grow at temperatures from 32°F to 158°F, with bacteria causing foodborne illness growing best at body temperature. Whether that means temperatures around 98.6°F are most problematic, I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. Nor do I know the calculus for temperature change over time at a certain heat. (I do know my enchilada casserole heats through in 30 minutes at 350° and a pork loin takes longer.)

On this topic generally, Google wasn’t particularly helpful. (Its first two hits were from bloggers, “beprepared” and “survivalmom.”) But what does seem certain is cans and glass containers are most susceptible to spoilage from exposure to oxygen, not heat. Extreme temperatures cause container expansion and contraction, compromising seals. 

Maybe the best notice to post at our projects is notice about discarding items that are deeply dented, bulging, leaking, or heavily rusted.


Maybe I should Ask Heloise.

Better yet...a food safety scientist/expert! Do you know someone who can answer these inelegantly posed questions? Email me! I'd love to feature a follow-up guest post from someone who'd never consider using an Elsa graphic.