Community Service Learning: Food Drives
What’s in the very back of your pantry? It’s likely filled with back-ups of items that your family eats often, like peanut butter, pasta, and dry beans. While it’s good to have extras of these things for times when there’s a lag between grocery story trips (or winter storms!), items like this – nonperishable and in sealed packages – can be the perfect starting place for a community food drive.
Food drives are just one of the many ways to help support those in need within your community, and food banks and survival centers are generally so easy to support and access that even teens and tweens can facilitate food drives at their schools or in their neighborhoods. GenerationOn, an organization that works to inspire and support youth in engaging in community service projects, offers simple (yet comprehensive) instructions for creating your own food drive. Using these steps, kids will not only be able to successfully collect food to donate, but they will learn and practice useful skills that will help them be successful in completing future service projects as well…
The steps outlined in generationOn’s food drive guide focus on two main areas: the logistics of a food drive; as well as, identifying need in your community. Not only do the instructions include things like making informative fliers and distributing and collecting designated bags, but they also encourage organizers to contact local organizations to find out how to best support their efforts. Instead of jumping straight to collecting canned food, drive organizers should find out whether the local survival center might prefer to have donations of toiletries and warm clothing, or if donations of money or volunteer hours are more useful than actual food donations at the local food bank. Need fluctuates throughout the year, and certain items are needed more at certain times of the year – it’s always best to find out what’s really needed if you’re serious about your service project.
Perhaps the most useful step of all in generationOn’s guide is the final one: do this again. Another one – the post-step, perhaps – that we encourage is not only to do it again, but to teach others to do the same. If you successfully run a food drive (or other similar project) in your community, teach friends, neighbors, and classmates to do the same. Your repeated efforts will make a big difference, but imagine if your actions were replicated by a few people that you know. In inspiring others to help, you can contribute to making community service projects more widespread – thus fostering deeper investment in the community amongst young people, and strengthening community support for those in need.
Not able to collect actual food items? Hilltown Families will be hosting a virtual food drive this holiday season (similar to the virtual food drive held for tornado relief in 2011), offering families an opportunity to donate food via the internet. Families can “shop” together for items to donate, selecting what they’d like to share from a list of items and donating the amount of money necessary for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts to offer them to their patrons. The virtual food drive is a great way for families with younger children to participate in a food drive, as it doesn’t require the coordination that holding your own entails. Kids who regularly pledge to donate some of their allowance or birthday money to charity can donate to the drive, while others might request that friends and family (or maybe even Santa?) donate a few items via the virtual drive instead of purchasing lots of presents during the holiday season. Check back next week for the Hilltown Families Virtual Holiday Food Drive.