How To Start a Food Drive

Organizing a food drive can be simple and fun. Pick out a time frame to collect donations and pick a way to motivate your community to join you. Here are some ideas on how to start one.

  • Have your community drop off donations at your home.
  • Partner with your school to be a drop-off point for donations.
    You can borrow our food drive barrels to make the collection easier. 
  • Instead of asking for birthday presents, ask for donations for your food drive. 
  • Organize a food drive with your office. 
  • Ask a local grocery store to host our food drive barrels. 
  • Ask your place of worship to collect items during the holiday season. 

There are many more creative ways to host a food drive. 

Help your community understand what types of items to donate. Here is the list of what our neighbors commonly request:

  • Rice
  • Cooking oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Soy sauce
  • Easy to cook pre-made meals
  • Canned meats
  • Stews
  • Soups
  • Diapers
    Personal hygiene products

When thinking about what to donate, please keep in mind if you wouldn’t give it to a friend, we shouldn’t give it to our neighbors. 

Lastly, pick a day you can bring the donations to The Friendship Center

Here is when we are open to accept donations:
Monday: 2 – 4 p.m.
Tuesday: 3 – 7 p.m.
Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday: 2 – 7 p.m.
Friday: 2 – 6 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

If you have any questions before you get started, please call us at 773.907.6388 or email We cannot accept food that is left outside.

Thanks for fighting hunger by feeding your neighbors.

Download our food drive toolkit to save this information for later.

Why Does Food Rescue Matter?

“I have some crates of milk  for you that we have too much of this week .” Brandon, the milkman, at our neighborhood Mariano’s is eager to provide our neighbors with the excess stock his store receives. 

Seth, our driver, visits stores throughout the city each morning to rescue excess food. From baked bread, vegetables, milk, eggs, meat, and everything in between, food rescued from grocery stores feeds our neighbors. 

Food rescue also creates a more sustainable supply chain. Grocers can forecast supply and demand at different times of the year however there is always some food that goes unsold. When stores donate fresh food and non-perishable items to The Friendship Center, they are eliminating excess food waste. 

“According to ReFED, 35% of food, or 80.6 million tons, goes uneaten or unsold in the United States – and most of that goes to waste.” (Feeding America, 2023). 

Food waste can also happen because of cosmetic issues like the item is too long, discolored, or oddly shaped, and retailers do not want to carry those items.

Additionally, the packaging could be mislabeled and missing the allergen information, so the items aren’t able to be sold in stores. Our network partner, Feeding America, is the only FDA-trusted organization with the ability to relabel food so that allergies can properly be listed and items can be donated to people facing hunger. 

Many manufacturers produce different types of products using the same machinery. It’s almost impossible to have some items not turn out correctly. For example, a plant that packages crunchy and creamy peanut butter will inevitably have a few batches that mix creamy and crunchy due to switching the type of consistency during production. Retailers do not want to carry these items as it can decrease customer satisfaction.

Cosmetic issues do not make food inedible. The network of food banks and pantries across the country can rescue these items from farmers, manufacturers, and retailers and redistribute them to the community. 

Check out this challenge from Feeding America to see if you can spot which food items would end up in a landfill instead of the grocery store. 

As a community, The Friendship Center partners with our neighborhood grocers to prevent healthy and fresh food from ending up in the trash and instead go to people who need it but cannot afford it. In the last twelve months we have rescued more than 500,000 lbs of wholesome food. To put that into perspective that is about a month of meals for 463 people! 

We are grateful to partner with Jewel #3262, Jewel #1282, Jewel #3442, Mariano’s #522, Mariano’s #515, Tony’s Fresh Market #567, Tony’s Fresh Market #1167, GoPuff #1, and Costco. We also continue to add new partnerships that will support our neighbors.

During Hunger Action Month we encourage you to fight hunger by partnering with us. $50 a month can feed a family of four and this month you can double your impact* thanks to a generous matching fund from John and Erin Telford. 

*All gifts up to $3,000 will be matched.

Five Ways To Fight Hunger

Every September, organizations fighting hunger come together to raise national awareness and encourage communities to take action to end hunger. 

Here are some practical ways you can take action this month. 

  1. Learn the Latest Facts About Hunger
    Food insecurity is a problem for 34 million people in the United States and 70,000 people in our 10 mile service area around The Friendship Center. 
    How many people in your community are facing hunger today? Check out Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap tool to inform yourself about food insecurity around you. 
  1. Share About People Facing Hunger With the People Around Your Table
    Engage with the people at your dinner table, whether it be your family, friends, roommates, or neighbors, about our nation’s issue with food insecurity. We’ll share insights and education on our newsletter and social platforms about people facing hunger throughout the month. 

If you have children in your household, it is important to share about people facing hunger and help them build empathy for their neighbors who are food insecure. Help your family visualize hunger by using the following prompt:

  • What does it feel like to be hungry?
  • What would you do if you couldn’t eat for a whole day? 
  • What things might be harder to do while hungry?

Work together to draw or write a story of someone who is facing hunger. If more direction is needed, ask a question, such as: How would you feel if you had to go the entire school year without breakfast or lunch?

  1. Volunteer at Your Local Food Pantry
    You can volunteer a few hours each week and play a critical role in ending hunger for your neighbors. Some volunteer activities include sorting, bagging, distribution, client intake, dinner prep, cooking, packing meals to go, and home delivery. Additionally, volunteers are needed to help work special events like the Farmer’s Market, Oktoberfestiversary, Mayfestiversary, etc. We have a role for any level of skillset and availability. 

 Sign up for volunteer opportunities at The Friendship Center on our website

  1. Organize a Food Drive
    The number of people facing hunger in our community has grown this summer. Hosting a food drive helps keep our shelves stocked with non-perishable food and hygiene supplies. The process is simple, check out our food drive toolkit to get started. 
  1. Donate to End Hunger

Our neighbors rely on your generosity and partnership to foster hope and dignity through access to food and vital resources. $50 a month can feed a family of four and this month you can double your impact* thanks to a generous matching fund from John and Erin Telford. 

*All gifts up to $3,000 will be matched.

It’s Official: Our Sign Is Here!

Two years after moving into our new home on Lawrence Avenue, we finally have the sign to prove it!

This building, with its kitchen and storage space, has been instrumental in helping us navigate these challenging times. A new sign finally makes it feel like home.

Thanks to TFA Signs for the design and install and the 40th Ward office for its assistance in navigating city bureaucracy … Come by and check out our new look!

New Friends! Michelle, Susan & Mike

Every few months we’ll introduce you to some of the people whose efforts are at the heart of the Friendship Center’s work and community engagement.

Photo of Friendship Center board member and volunteer Michelle Cahoon
Michelle Cahoon

Michelle Cahoon has been a volunteer at the Friendship Center since July 2019 after spending 30+ years in the financial services industry as the CFO of an investment management firm and a certified public accountant.

She has been a long-time financial supporter of the Greater Chicago Food Depository due to her strong belief that no one should go hungry and becoming a regular volunteer at the pantry was a top goal after her retirement.

Michelle joined the board in April 2021 and brings both her hands-on knowledge from volunteering as well as her financial skills to that role. Michelle enjoys food, wine and travel and has been an avid Blackhawks fan since before their recent Stanley Cup wins.

Photo of Friendship Center board member and volunteer Susan Casey
Susan Casey

Susan Casey joined the Friendship Center board in April 2021 and helps with Saturday food deliveries to seniors. She has lived in the North Park community with her family for over 20 years, where she’s enjoyed volunteer leadership roles in the local community association and a local school.

As a program manager for the environmental nonprofit Seven Generations Ahead, Susan helps K-12 schools reduce waste. She was a middle school science teacher prior to that. Susan looks forward to contributing her nonprofit, education, and community-building experience to the work and mission of the Friendship Center.

If you recently saw the Friendship Center in the Chicago Tribune, FOX-32, or WTTW, then you were looking at the handiwork of our PR guru/volunteer Mike Roach (pictured above, holding the Trib op-ed by Friendship Center volunteer Jaime Freedman). After 20+ years making news for national brands including Budweiser, Harley-Davidson, KFC, and Snickers, Mike launched his own agency to help entrepreneurs, nonprofits and small businesses elevate their storytelling.

Mike loves visiting farmers markets with his wife, Katie, and daughter, Ella. In fact, it was at the Ravenswood Farmers Market where he first found out about our food pantry and got involved. We became his first pro bono client! You can follow Mike’s travels to markets around the world via his Instagram feed @AtTheFarmersMarket.

“There are so many unsung pantry volunteers doing such amazing things, it’s humbling to be able to help tell their story,” Mike said. “I just hope this media attention inspires other professionals in the neighborhood — be they accountants, plumbers, painters or social media gurus — to join me in donating some of their time and talent to support this important work.”

Hot Meals To-Go

Over the last year, our Thursday hot-meal dinner program has doubled in numbers — even as our dining room remains closed due to COVID and all meals are served to go. Ross Outten, above, has been stirring a lot of pots!

We now serve 75 to 85 people every week from 6 to 8 p.m. Every person who drops in receives a hot, nutritious meal and a bag full of RTE (ready-to-eat) snack foods.

We feature a changing variety of donated ingredients from local garden plots and nearby restaurants that enable us to serve global flavors representing the cultures and nationalities that make our community so vibrant.

Prior to COVID, clients were served in a dining area and conversation flowed along with the food. We’re not there yet, but we still aim to provide more than just a meal.