The do's and don'ts of donating to food banks during COVID

June 11, 2020

by Paul Morello

You may have seen the numbers: food banks are feeding nearly 60 percent more people during the COVID-19 pandemic than they were this time last year. At the same time, many food banks are seeing decreased donations from the grocery stores and manufacturers that helped them in the past.

With so many families visiting food banks for the first time, you may be wondering what food banks need. Should you start a food drive? Should you donate cash?  We’ve got some do’s and don’ts about what food banks need right now (and what’s best to avoid) as they ensure our neighbors have enough food to eat during the pandemic and beyond.

Do: Make a monetary donation It might sound simple, but right now, monetary donations are the most useful and efficient way to support food banks. These donations give food banks the flexibility and funds to respond wherever the need is highest. Whether that’s purchasing more food to meet the demand, hiring more staff, setting up new meal distributions, or simply putting gas into delivery trucks, cash ensures food banks can meet the demand in their communities.

To ensure a contactless donation, the best way to make a gift to your local food bank is to donate through their website. Or donate to our coronavirus relief fund where 100% of donations are going directly to support food banks across the country.

Don’t: Be afraid to ask what your local food bank needs!  Every food bank is unique and in this unprecedented situation, what your food bank specifically needs might be different from what other food banks need or what your food bank has needed in the past. Find your local food bank and follow them on social media for the most up-to-date info on what they need.

Don’t: Start a physical food drive  In general, donating funds over food is the way to go when supporting a food bank. But that rule of thumb is even more relevant now as sorting and packing food drive donations is incredibly time-intensive for food banks, and this may not be possible with limited staff due to the pandemic. If your family or friends are committed to holding a food drive, set the food aside (making sure it won’t expire) and donate your collection when it is safe to do so in your community. Also, keep an eye out for drive-thru or curbside food drives led by your local food bank. Or, check out an even better alternative such as… 

Do: Have all the fun of a food drive, while social distancing with a virtual food drive Virtual food drives are the perfect way to support your local food bank. They help raise much-needed funds for food banks while also getting your family, friends, and even coworkers involved in the cause. Start a virtual food drive, and then on the next family FaceTime or work Zoom meeting, tell everyone about your food drive and incentivize some friendly fundraising with these silly, easy prizes.

Do: Donate your time Two-thirds of food banks are accepting volunteers right now. And sometimes, the thing your food bank needs most is you. Volunteers are helping pack emergency food boxes, distribute food at drive-thru pantries, and much more. In fact, there are even ways to volunteer at food banks without leaving your home.

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