Homeless shelters, food banks and other charitable organizations depend on food drive donations to keep their shelves stocked with nonperishable food. Racine County Food Bank says the most wanted items -- the super six foods -- are canned fruit, tuna, instant potatoes, peanut butter, beef stew and fruit juice. Increase the success of your food drive by motivating contributors through incentives and creativity.


If the organization sponsoring the food drive has a number of members, form teams and encourage a competition to see which team brings in the most food by weight. Award the winning team with a pizza party. Put a spin on the competition by assigning each team certain letters of the alphabet. They have to bring in food beginning with their assigned letters. For example, if a team is assigned the letters A through F, the foods could be applesauce, beans, cooking oil, eggs (dehydrated) and flour. Award movie tickets to the team that brings in the most super six foods. Award different prizes for the most food, the most unusual food, the greatest variety of food or any other fun category you see fit that will motivate your teams to amp up their food collection activities.


Obtain corporate sponsors to match the amount of food donated in dollars. Go beyond asking grocery stores to be sponsors. Try insurance agents, attorneys, retail stores, virtually any business that depends on referrals and visibility to obtain customers. Allow sponsors to put a cap on their matched amount, if they prefer. Put up a cardboard "thermometer" with the drive's goal at the drive and track how close the donations are coming to the goal.

Clear Out the Pantry

If your food drive group is on the smaller side -- a church group for example -- ask that contributors go through their pantries and bring in unopened packages of rice, beans, flour, sugar and canned goods. The person who brings in the most food by weight receives a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

Souper Supper

Encourage contributors to donate the cost of one meal to your organization in exchange for a container of dried soup mix that amply serves four adults. Make the soup mix yourself to save money and package it in zipper locked bags. Dried vegetables, bouillon powder and dried herbs to make the soup mix with are all available in bulk. Offer a variety of soup choices. If you prefer not to make the soup mixes, have cans of soup available for your donors. The monetary donations go into a big soup pot.

Bagged Lunches

The traditional brown bag lunch consists of peanut butter and jelly, cookies, a bag of chips and an apple. Tuna fish salad sandwiches, pasta salad and fruit cups are another standby sack lunch. Ask contributors to donate jars of peanut butter, jelly, crackers instead of the bread, packages of cookies, chips and dried fruit or cans of tuna fish, mayonnaise, dry pasta and canned mixed vegetables and fruit cups.