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Food bank prepares for 25% increase in requests for food assistance during the holidays | Community News

According to a report from Fidelity Charitable, the COVID-19 crisis has “motivated donors everywhere to act” and “every geographic region increased its grant volume by 28% or more over the same period in 2019.”

This year has been challenging, but as the executive director of Community Action Services and Food Bank, I have witnessed so much generosity. For example, large corporations have increased their charitable donations by record amounts.

However, with the holidays coming up, we are preparing for a 25% increase in requests for food assistance. Corporations can make a huge difference in helping to meet those needs.

2020 has been different

We have been fortunate enough to receive an increase in cash donations compared to the donations received in 2019. These donations have enabled us to respond to the slight increase in requests for food assistance that have accompanied layoffs and furloughs.

We live in a very giving and generous community, and we are grateful for the goodwill that has allowed us to help our neighbors, who are facing difficult challenges at this time.

This year also saw the cancellation of our two large food drives, which are traditionally held each spring: the Scouting for Food and the Mail Carriers Food Drive.

In the spring of 2019, these two drives added an incredible 188,000 pounds of food to our food bank, but due to COVID-19, these two drives couldn’t take place this year.

Corporations can help meet holiday needs

Ahead of the holiday season, we are preparing for a 25% increase in requests for food assistance. We anticipate that this will keep us ahead of the demand and take us through what could be a harsh COVID-19 winter season.

Corporate food drives help us make sure our stock is being rotated at a healthy pace.

Generally, corporate drives are scheduled throughout the year, which allows us to keep stock moving. While not every corporate food drive brings in the same amounts as a Mail Carriers or Boy Scouts drive will, we are grateful for the united effort and consistency they bring to our food bank.

Additionally, schools, religious organizations, civic organizations and service clubs can also offer significant help in this area.

Tips for running a corporate food drive

I recently visited with Tara Riddle, property coordinator and ombudsman for the City of Provo, about her experience with running corporate food drives. She has co-chaired Provo City’s Annual Giving Campaign for 18 years.

Here are her top tips for a successful corporate food drive:

Offer a few options to ensure every employee has the opportunity to donate in a way they find meaningful. Provo first implemented this tip several years ago.

“For some, (having options available) meant just being able to designate which charity they were the most passionate about and pledging funds to support that organization,” Riddle said. “For others, it was an opportunity to donate a coat for a person in need and/or donating food to our local food bank. The food drive has become very popular, so we have concentrated a lot of effort in encouraging employees to donate needed items or (give) monetarily.”

Appoint leaders who are energetic supporters of the charity campaign.

“Leaders who have volunteered at the food bank or who have personal experience with receiving services (either themselves or someone close to them) is also helpful,” she said. “Being able to provide to the employees a list of the most needed items makes the drive meaningful when they know they are helping to stock the shelves with items that are essential.

Finally, include healthy competition.

“We have each department keep track of the number of pounds of food collected,” Riddle explained. “At the end of the drive, we determine the number of pounds donated divided by the number of employees in the department to get the pounds per employee. The department with the (highest) pounds-per-employee donation receives the coveted traveling trophy, ‘The Golden Can Award,’ that bears the winning department’s name and the number of pounds of food collected.”

Please note that there is no mandate prohibiting food drives. We encourage organizations to organize COVID-adapted food and fund drives to help keep our shelves stocked.

For those participating in a food drive, it can be hard to tell whether each individual contribution — even a small contribution — is really making a difference. But it all adds up.

According to Feeding America, an average meal is 1.2 pounds of food. So, if a corporate food drive generates 1,000 pounds of food, then they have provided about 833 meals to support those in need in our community as distributed through about six pantries.

Every donation makes a difference, and together, those donations can be a significant boost to the food pantries that do so much for our community.

Karen McCandless is the executive director of Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo. CASFB is located at 815 S. Freedom Blvd., Ste. 100. For more information on educational programs, how to make donations, upcoming classes, food drives and more, visit communityactionprovo.org or call (801) 373-8200.

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