If you want to do a meaningful community service project with your Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop or youth group, then these tips will help you have a successful canned food drive. From urban areas to bedroom communities in the suburbs, hunger is an ever present issue that does not care how nice your house is or what kind of car you drive.
My Brownie Girl Scout troop of ten third grade girls had a very successful canned food drive and collected over 2,000 cans and boxes for a local food pantry. Here is how we did it.
Photo from Morguefile
Get the Families Involved
A month before our canned food drive, I emailed the parents. My goal was for each girl to collect one hundred cans and boxes each in honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts. The girls had to do this on their own, with minimal parental help. If they wanted to go door to door, of course parents had to accompany them. If parents wanted to email family and friends, the email had to be composed by their daughter. This was not a contest. It was about working together as a group to
make the world a better place, being considerate and caring, courageous and strong and being friendly and helpful. No one was going to get a prize for collecting the most cans...it was all about helping others and achieving our troop goal.
One of the easiest ways to collect cans is to do what my daughter and most of the girls in my troop did. At the supermarket, I asked for dozens of brown paper bags and had plastic bags with handles over them. My daughter composed a note and typed it up on the computer. We printed it out and stapled the notes to the bag. The note read:
Hi! My name is _____________ and my Brownie Girl Scout troop #______ is collecting canned and boxed food for local food pantries in our area. If you could fill the bag with food, I will collect it after (time) on (day of the week and month).
Thank you for your support!
My daughter and I went around our neighborhood and left these bags on every mailbox. We did this on two consecutive Saturdays in different parts of our neighborhood. We learned a few things…
1. Put bags on everyone’s mailbox, not just the neighbors you know. Surprisingly, people who we knew did not give at all, while others we did not know gave very generously.
2. Do not give people more than three or four days advance notice, because they will forget. If you are collecting bags on a Saturday morning, then put the empty bags on mailboxes on Wednesday.
3. You will be making several trips to collect the full bags of food. This will take about two or three hours. Just because you wrote that you are collecting the bags at ten o’clock, that does not mean that they will all be waiting for you on the front porch at that time. If you wrote ten o’clock, do your first round of pick ups at 10:30. The make your rounds every half hour for about two hours.
4. Make sure to designate a place in your home for all of your canned and boxed goods!
Other ways to get families involved was to have parents get help at their offices. One of my girls made a poster that said “Cans for Pants”. In order to wear pants to a very conservative office, canned goods have to be brought in.
Another girl wrote an email and her parents sent it to all the people on her brother’s basketball team. At the next game, they had bags and bags of food to bring home!
A few of my girls were courageous and strong and went door to door with their parents and explained what they were trying to accomplish. They handed the neighbors bags and told them when they would return to pick them up.
Get the School Involved
Another way my troop collected canned goods for our successful food drive was to have our school support our efforts. Nine of my ten girls attend the same school, and our principal was a Girl Scout until she graduated high school. We had her full support! With her help, we were able to collect hundreds of additional cans and let our school know that Girl Scouts is more than just arts and crafts!
Get Local Supermarkets Involved
If you want to involve the community with your canned food drive, you will need to ask several weeks in advance of your collection. I learned this the hard way. My original plan was to have cartoons at local supermarkets for people to give a can or two after they checked out. For large supermarkets, this has to be cleared with corporate headquarters, and I did not have time to wait for approvals.
Collecting the Goods
Over the course of a few days, I had the girls and their parents bring their canned goods to my home. My living room was wall to wall grocery bags full of food! It was one time that I did not mind clutter in my home.
Our Girl Scout Meeting
Photo by Hannah Gold
Our school district had a half day scheduled on the day we were supposed to meet, so I got field trip permission for the girls to come to my home to sort and organize the food we had collected. My co-leader, a volunteer and I took the girls back to my house, we had a snack, and then I had them make signs for the bags. One of the most challenging jobs for any food pantry is sorting through the donations. Because we had over 2,000 individual food items, we did this for the organization receiving our donations.
I had the girls make signs on computer paper cut into quarters. They could write it the type of food any way they wanted and then decorate the sign if they chose to. Some of the categories we had were…
Orange and Yellow Vegetables
It took us a about an hour and a half to sort through everything. We loaded the four mini vans as the bags were sorted to make more room and to see if we needed to call in additional help. Once the vans were loaded, we drove to the food pantry and the girls helped unload the food.
When we returned to my home, I rewarded the girls with a make your own sundae bar for all of their hard work.
I am proud of my Girl Scout troop’s very successful canned food drive. We really did help make our corner of the world a better place.