Diamond Fork Junior High collects more than 26K food items during annual drive 07

Donations for Diamond Fork Junior High School's annual food drive are piled high in a classroom at the school in Spanish Fork on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. In the last two weeks the school has collected more than 26,000 food and hygiene items and $2,500 that will benefit The Utah Food and Care Coalition and Tabitha's Way.

With the first day of school just around the corner, thoughts turn to the needs of those in our community w ho struggle with poverty and hunger as the fall season approaches. This is a time when food and funds drives can really help. These seasonal drives can be a way for donors to feel good knowing they have made a difference in their communities.

There are real people who benefit from these donations and as has been said, “We all rise by lifting others.” I believe we can make things better for our communities when we help those who face hardships. And when individuals and families are stabilized with food assistance, it becomes easier for them to take steps necessary to become self sufficient. The counselors, programs and partners of Community Action Services and Food Bank are in place to help.

Life has challenges, most are unexpected. There are situations that arise every day like Cynthia (a pseudonym) whose husband left the family suddenly. Lacking current job skills and without the chance to prepare for the loss of income, she was running low on food for her three young children. She came to Community Action Services and Food Bank to see if we could help them. Food assistance was provided, counselors met with her and a plan was developed. It is significant when people can be helped in this way.

One in eight people in Utah County struggles with hunger and one in six children face food insecurity. Often the elderly, the sick, or those facing unexpected or persistent hardships need extra help to feed themselves and their families. Thanks to generous individuals, businesses, community members and others, Community Action Services and Food Bank is able to help people like Cynthia stock up their pantry and get back on their feet.

Generous donations of nutritious, high-quality food items and financial contributions are needed and appreciated. And many don’t realize that a donation of $1 can help feed an average family of four for a day. This is possible because of grocery rescue efforts, distressed food sources and others who partner with Community Action Services and Food Bank.

If you’re interested in helping families like Cynthia’s, consider hosting a food and funds drive. Plan it, promote it and have fun with it. The following are a few suggestions.

Plan it

Planning a food or fund drive may seem intimidating, but generally simple and straightforward can be best. Start with a goal in mind then organize the effort around that. Goals align your focus and sustain your momentum. And I’ve seen that a clear goal strengthens teamwork and makes your efforts more successful.

Signs and posters can be made and Community Actions Services logos can be clipped from the website as needed. Decide on whether it’s a food or fund drive or both. Food drives can be registered on our website, http://comunityactionuc.org, where food barrels and coin collection jars can be requested as well as delivery/ pick up if needed. Scroll through this document to find out all the information you need to collect, and fill out the form when you’re ready.

Finally, have some fun! Choosing a theme is a great way to have your drive be more successful. Contests, challenges, matching donations and promotions like donuts or recognition for participation can be great. A few examples include: “Building Up Our Neighbors,” “One Can, Toucan, We Can” and “Drive Away Hunger.” A little creativity can make the food drive more appealing to your group or business.

Build goodwill for your family, organization or business by using social media to highlight your community support. Community Action Services and Food Bank may be able to help with pictures to post, newsletter articles or other recognition.

Promote it

Once the food or fund drive is planned, it’s time to promote it. Here are some ideas:

Place posters and notices to promote the food drive.

Consider incentives, recognition or rewards for participation.

Email your clients or partners to let them know what you are doing and invite them to participate. Banding together for a good cause is a great way to build relationships!

Use social media to get the word out and share your efforts. Don’t forget to tag Community Action Services and Food Bank; we love to see and share the good you are doing.

Collect the donations

All that’s left is to set up the collection bins and encourage donations to begin. Keeping donations organized helps with pick up at the end of your drive. Visibility encourages donations and helps control items.

What sorts of items are most needed? All donations are appreciated but certain items are especially needed. Included are:

Canned meat, stews, chili and high quality soups.

Canned fruit and vegetables

Wet goods (e.g. condiments, dressings, peanut butter, jelly, syrup)

Basics (oil, flour, sugar, crackers, pasta, rice)

Healthy snacks — fruit, granola, protein bars, etc.

Note: canned food is accepted up to five years past expiration.

Nutritious, high-quality food does more than fill bellies. It can minimize health concerns, reduce the risk for disease, improve mood and memory, and even help people sleep better. For our neighbors who are struggling, these benefits can be life-changing.

Donated funds go a long way and sometimes this method of support is easier and preferred by some people. For your food drive, you could simply direct donors to http://communityactionuc.org for online donations or good old-fashioned coin collecting works, too!

Deliver the results

The last step is to deliver food barrels, cash and coins to our location at 815 S. Freedom Blvd. Ste. 100, in Provo. For large food donations, arrangements can be made for the food bank trucks to pick up.

Your donations will go to our neighbors who are facing hunger right here in Utah County. Follow the guidelines above and don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions. Remember, Community Action Services and Food Bank is dedicated to fostering self-reliance in individuals and families. Agency resources and programs are focused on moving people out of poverty. You can play an important role as your efforts help to strengthen our community in such a meaningful way.

Dave Smith is the Food Bank Director for Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. CASFB is located at 815 S. Freedom Blvd., Ste. 100. For more information on the educational programs, how to make donations, upcoming classes, food drives and more, visit http://communityactionuc.org or call (801) 373-8200.

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