Written by Jessie Palatucci
“For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink . . .” - Matthew 25: 35
Historically, religious organizations and nonprofit agencies have distributed food and meals to people in need. The sharp increases in such requests associated with high unemployment, cuts in the social safety net, decline in the value of public assistance benefits, and increases in housing and other costs has led to unprecedented growth of food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and emergency food programs.
Below are 11 ideas for fun projects to help motivate your congregation to do food donations.
Simply choose a theme and place a large box in a convenient spot at your church so that members can deposit food items that will be delivered to the food bank or food pantry by a designated person at the church. Or encourage your members to deliver items to the food bank/pantry themselves.
1. “Plant a Row for the Hungry” – Plant an extra row in your vegetable garden and donate the harvest to the food shelters. You can also begin this project in the spring or begin to plant a container garden. Donating your extra produce will help others live better and healthier lives.
Things to note: It is important to first contact the local food pantry and make arrangements with the director or staffer at the food bank/pantry to receive your produce. Compile a list of all the government and independent food pantries in your county/community who accept donations of fresh fruits and vegetables. Circulate this list to other congregations.
If weather where you are located does not support planting a row this time of year, consider “planting a seed” by a forming a group to work your state Cooperative Extension agency to identify local Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) farms and recruit members for an early spring garden start.
2. “Casserole Wednesday” – Have your church members make Casseroles. Deliver these casseroles to local shelters and outreach centers. Volunteer at the shelter on this day by helping to serve the meal. Show extravagant hospitality by sitting down and breaking bread with community recipients.
3. Have a “Souper Day” – Ask your congregation to focus on gathering cans of soup. Soup contains many nutrients and has many health benefits. Choose soups that are lower in sodium and fat.
4. “Festive Fruity Friday” – Have everyone commit to donating fruit. Inquire if the food bank/shelter accepts fresh fruits, if not, focus on canned fruits that are packed in their own juices or have light syrup.
5. “Tasty Tuna Saturday” – Whether you’re a fisher who could provide a fresh catch or a shopper who could hook some cans, your donations will be much appreciated. Bring these items to your church to be delivered to the food bank/pantry. Fish and meats are good sources of protein and can be mixed with lots of vegetables and grains for a nice meal.
6. “Dedication and Commitment Sunday” – Choose a Sunday and ask your congregation to commit to bringing cans on that day. Designate a special time in the morning service where members may come forward with their food donations and drop them into a special basket in front of the altar. Have a special dedication and prayer over the food items. The items may be delivered to the food bank/shelter during the week.
Take it further and distribute simple “pledge” cards that members by which members of your community can pledge to donate food to pantries and food banks for an entire year. Have members drop their pledge cards into the offering plate. Print out a list of those who have pledged and post it somewhere in the church. Encourage others to pledge throughout the year.
7. “Miscellaneous Mondays” – On this day ask people to donate whatever they’ve got lying around in their house! Bring it to the church to be donated to the pantry/food bank.
8. “Cereal and Oatmeal Shoppers” – Choose a day to donate cereals that are multi-grain with low sugar content. Donate low sodium oatmeal. Cereals supply protein, vitamins and minerals.
9. “Pasta Party” – Focus on collecting all kinds of Pasta! Pasta is a food source of carbohydrates. Don’t forget to add the sauce – tomato-based sauces are good.
10. “Thankful Thursday” – Use this day to collect items for Thanksgiving dinners. Many shelters will prepare and serve thanksgiving meals. Donate turkeys that can be frozen (check to make sure that the food bank has a freezer), dry mashed potato flakes, canned vegetables, condiments, bread, etc. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce!
11. “Calling all Pet Lovers” – People are making choices between feeding their pets and feeding themselves. Many families have to give up their pets because they can no longer feed them. Give donations of pet foods to the shelter or food bank so that people can support their pets and families when they are struggling financially.
Excerpted from the Mission: 1 "Food Donation Resource"