This blog post is written by Tamara Rahmani, Western Canada Charity Engagement Specialist at CanadaHelps.
As Canadians sit down to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, thousands across the country and millions more around the world don’t know where their next meal will come from. In fact, each month in Canada, there are over one million visits to food banks, and over a third of those helped are children. But despite the critical need for these organizations, food banks don’t receive any direct government funding and rely almost entirely on community donations.
This, of course, means your help is essential, but there are some key things to consider if you are looking to effectively support your local food bank.
Take donating canned items for example, this practice stems back decades. It’s simple, your office is holding a food drive or your child’s school play requires one non-perishable good for admission and you raid the back of your pantry for the extra can of beans or creamed corn to give away. Although any food bank will generally welcome your donation of healthy, non-perishable foods, these items have a shallow rate of charitable return when it comes to making a big impact.
There are many reasons for this. For instance, your purchasing power for food is much weaker than food banks who can buy in bulk and receive charity discounts. Secondly, moving these items takes a lot of time, money, and volunteer effort to sort, store, log, and distribute. Finally, these gifts do not support a food bank’s important operating costs or work to innovate lasting change through food rescue efforts, educative programming or efforts to effect policy change.
Canned goods aside, there are several other ways to make a contribution really count and effectively help a food bank support someone who may have to choose between feeding their family or making rent.
- Make a Financial Donation
Giving money to a food bank covers the costs of the necessities mentioned above that canned items fall short on. Plus, when you make a financial donation to your local food bank the gift is tax-deductible for you and the food bank can choose what they do with it and how far it goes to making a difference. The Calgary Food Bank, for example can stretch a $1 donation to $5. A financial gift will also allow a food bank to strategically purchase a variety of food to ensure they can offer options for a nutritionally balanced diet.
- Donate Your Time and Talent
Volunteers are critical at almost any food bank. Every role—whether it is working in the warehouse sorting food, organizing a special event, or volunteering pro bono—is an important way to help those in need.
- Give Personal Items
Personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, and laundry detergent are products that are high in demand at most food banks.
- Donate In Kind
Donations of goods like office space, roadworthy vehicles, or office equipment are significant contributions that will lower operating costs for a food bank. Additionally, professional legal or financial services will also make a substantial impact.
- Visit Your Local Food Bank’s Website
Chances are, your local food bank will list just what they need and don’t need on their website. Almost all will have a way to donate online or give monthly donations. Some will even have a virtual grocery store of curated items or preselected hamper bundles to purchase online like this example from Partners in Mission Food Bank.
- Host a Fundraiser
Rally your networks to support your local food bank by hosting a fundraiser! Through CanadaHelps you can create a free fundraiser and have the donations sent directly to your charity of your choice. Plus, we automatically email a tax receipt for your supporters! Your fundraiser can also get creative by hosting a used book or bake sale, organize a ‘causal dress day’ at work and ask donation for the cost of wearing your favourite jeans. Get more fundraising ideas here if you are looking to be inspired.
One of the driving factors for food bank use is poverty which is a result of economic distributions, low incomes and government policies that don’t provide adequate support, according to Food Banks Canada. They add that to support people out of poverty and drive down the number of people turning to food banks across the country, government policies need to change and they have outlined key policy recommendations in their HungerCount 2018 report which you can learn more about here.