How to Donate to a Food Pantry and Host a Virtual Food Drive

Meggan Franks, Miller, Ruby, Baker, Lindsay

Donating to a food bank does not have to be complicated. Typically, most food pantries prefer donations of dry and canned goods or any food that is "shelf-stable" or nonperishable.

Items that you can donate to a food pantry

Think about the foods that your parents keep in your pantry at home because these are typically the items that food pantries will accept. More specifically, food banks are often in need of items such as:

  • Peanut butter
  • Canned meat or other protein items (tuna, salmon, chicken)
  • Canned soups
  • Canned fruits
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned stews
  • Canned beans
  • Hot or cold low-sugar and multi-grain cereals
  • Pastas (most prefer whole grain)
  • Rice (most prefer brown rice)
  • Olive oil or Canola oil
  • Shelf-stable or powdered milk
  • Condiments and spices (ketchup, mustard, salt, and pepper)

Items that you should not donate to a food pantry

Individuals that wish to donate to food pantries are encouraged not to donate glass containers, perishable items (items that need to be refrigerated), and items at or near their expiration date. Additionally, any food with packaging concerns (dents, bloated cans, or things that may have been opened already) should be avoided.

More information on what you should and should not donate is available at What to donate to a foodbank and what to avoid

How to Host a Virtual Food Drive

Hosting a virtual food drive can be a rewarding process and can help food pantries get the most-needed food items to people in need. Follow the steps below to host your virtual food drive.

Step 1: Reach out to a local pantry of your choice

Make sure to contact the organization you wish to help and ask them if they have any specific needs that you can promote in your virtual food drive. Visit Feeding America to find a local food bank in your area Feeding America - Find your local foodbank

Step 2: Set-up your virtual food drive

  • Decide whether your entire food drive will be conducted online or if you will coordinate a designated drop-off location with a local pantry. If possible, find out when the pantry typically accepts donations from volunteers and promote the day(s), time(s), and location(s) as part of your virtual drive. When coordinating un-attended drop-off locations, be safe, and practice social distancing.
  • Select the dates for your food drive or how long you intend to hold it. It is recommended that a food drive should run for a minimum of two weeks.
  • Set a goal for how much food you would like to collect.

Step 3: Publicize your virtual event

The key to success will be making sure a lot of people know about your food drive so they can donate. You can use the free version of Canva or Adobe Spark to create social media images that can help you spread the word. Choose a catchy name or a theme for your food drive to help make it more memorable.

Use social media to publicize your event. Create a Facebook event page or Instagram page and post your virtual food drive information for the public to see. Important information to include on your virtual event or page includes:

  • What community organization you are supporting
  • What you are collecting
  • Where and when the items can be delivered or dropped off
  • How donors should submit their results (i.e., sending pictures, commenting on posts, tagging the virtual drive in images or posts, etc.)

Next, invite all your friends and family to like the virtual food drive page or join the virtual event. Continue to share the most needed list on various social media platforms so that donors know what you need. Organize and plan daily posts to keep your audience engaged in your virtual event.

If you are aware of local newspapers or radio stations in your area, consider reaching out to them to have them help you promote the virtual food drive information.

Step 4: Capture results and reflect

Track the progress of your food drive on your Facebook event page or an Instagram page. Instruct your volunteers to tag, comment, or submit photos of their donations. Once your virtual food drive is complete, announce the results (how many people participated and what was donated) via social media. Make sure to publicly thank all those that donated to your virtual drive.

Lastly, reflect on your food drive. Was it successful? What worked? What could be improved? What did you learn from the experience?

For more information on how to safely donate and support food pantries during COVID-19 Feeding America - Take action - coronavirus

The Cantastic service-learning project is a collaboration between Louisiana 4-H, the Louisiana 4-H Volunteer Leaders Association, and Collegiate 4-H. View the first Cantastic service-learning module at


Capital Area Foodbank - How to help/donate food - Host a digital food drive.

Feeding America - What to donate to a food bank and what to avoid.

Feeding America - Take action - Coronavirus

Charity - Gofundme - foodlifeline

4/28/2020 10:07:52 PM
Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture