Home Read Our Blog December 2015 What’s the Missing Key Ingredient for Food Drives?

What’s the Missing Key Ingredient for Food Drives?

What’s the Missing Key Ingredient for Food Drives?
Dropping your non-perishable donation into a grocery store collection bin is a great way to support a local food drive. But in fact your cash donation is just as important — maybe more so.
In 2014, the annual Loblaws Holiday Campaign raised more than 1 million pounds of food. An awful lot of Canadian families in need were able to have a happier holiday because of that. In addition to collecting food, Loblaws also gives shoppers the opportunity to make a cash donation at checkout.

“Last year our Holiday Campaign also raised more than $1.3 million to support the work of local food banks,” says Nicole Donaldson, Specialist, Community Investment of Loblaw Companies Limited. “We are delighted every year by the generosity of our customers who want to help their neighbours by making a food or cash donation. We take pride in our role of getting the food and the funding into the hands of local food banks to support their invaluable work.”

Why are the fundraising activities of companies like Loblaws just as important to food banks as their foodraising ventures? Well, it turns out that getting food on the tables of low-income Canadians requires a lot of work after the food donations leave the store. 

What happens behind the scenes

After you add your tin of tuna to the collection bin, the food is transported to a larger food bank for sorting. Food sorting takes a lot of volunteer hours, and it also helps to have full-time, paid staff members to organize the operations and coordinate volunteers to keep everything running smoothly.

Much of the food is then redistributed to agencies like school breakfast programs, meal programs or other local food banks. Food delivery requires a truck (ideally refrigerated), a driver, and gasoline.

There’s also the infrastructure costs – rent for warehousing space, and the purchase of storage units and refrigeration units for perishable items.

As well, many food banks supplement donated food by buying perishables such as milk and fresh produce on a regular basis to ensure they are getting nutritious offerings.   
Clearly, these activities and purchases require a significant amount of funding.

A smart investment

Bernadette Siracky, Executive Director of Kamloops Food Bank, points out that the money donated to food banks can get a great return on investment because organizations like hers know how to use it effectively.

For example, when her organization runs a food drive, it may cost them a few thousand dollars to purchase collection bags and distribute them to households. But many of those bags come back filled to the brim — which means the initial investment could net more than $150,000 of food. 

“Financial support is necessary in order to create and sustain a strong and healthy organization. We utilize financial donations to leverage it into food donations and purchases worth many, many times more,” says Bernadette. “Typically, by running food drives and by operating a major food recovery program, we are able to turn a few hundred thousand dollars each year into a few million dollars worth of food and distribute it to 45 agencies in our community that make meals and more than 7,000 individuals that access us on site”.

Say “yes” to a cash donation

Next time you’re at the checkout line and pause to answer the cashier’s request to contribute to their food bank fundraising campaign, consider saying “yes” to a cash donation. It will help your food donation go that much further.


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of food distributed by Canadian food banks is fresh (eg. milk, eggs, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, bread)