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.

Poverty is Not a Mindset

Poverty is not a mindset.  Poverty is a systemic failure.

We often hear that everyone can make it if they would just put forth the effort; that it is their own fault if they are poor. This is untrue.  Many of those that are living on the margins and in the shadows of society have literally been forgotten.  Decades of policy choices have created the dramatic increase in poverty that we are now experiencing. Systems and governmental barriers prevent those living in poverty conditions from escaping. 

As a child, if you grow up in a neighborhood that makes no investment in you, that dismantles your neighborhood by closing schools and stores, blocks transportation access, that removes all resources from your community, you will be impacted.  There is no way you wouldn’t be.  And these experiences help frame our lives and the decisions we make. In fact, most people experiencing chronic homelessness struggle with what we call ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences). 

We are a reactive society, which is one of our biggest downfalls.  We have devalued the lives of children.  These children will grow into adults.  We then expect those adults to operate effectively, with rational thought and make good decisions.  What we don’t recognize is that these adults were the children that ate Cheetos and juicy boxes for breakfast on the way to school.  These are the children we didn’t invest in and gave up on.  How can they thrive in conditions like this?  

People, especially those that deal with chronic homelessness, need more than a roof over their head – if they even want that.  They need wrap around case services, support, therapeutic healing, mental health services, etc. For example, California is expecting a budget surplus of close to $98 Billion in 2023.  Gov. Newsome will be adding an additional $700 Million to his proposed budget of $2 Billion for housing solutions.  Although this budget increase is commendable, instead of addressing the issues at the root of the problem money is thrown at housing.  This rarely works. 

As I teach my NEIU students in our “Hunger and Homelessness” Justice Studies class, no one grows up wanting to be poor or chronically unhoused.  Systemic barriers and decades of failure have led us here to where we are today.  Failing to provide proactive strategies and solutions, like investing in housing without addressing mental health, is not a legitimate path forward.

-Gaylon Alcaraz, Justice Studies – NEIU

About the author:

Gaylon comes from a long history in Chicago as an activist, organizer and champion of human rights.  For more than twenty five years, she has worked on behalf of sexual minority women, anti-violence, gender equity, health prevention, reproductive rights, as well as race and culture issues. She has consistently applied her knowledge in practice towards quality improvement, increased access, and by challenging frameworks that do not allow for the exploration of diversity across multiple dimensions when working with, and on behalf of diverse constituencies.  Gaylon is the past Executive Director of the Chicago Abortion Fund and is a founding board member of Affinity Community Services, a past board member of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and the Midwest Access Project. Currently, she is the Director of Operations with the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois she was awarded her BA and MA from DePaul University.   Gaylon is currently a PhD candidate in Community Psychology at National Louis University. 

A Message from Our New Board Chair

It has been my privilege to serve on The Friendship Center board for more than twelve years, and during that time, our organization has grown and evolved in ways we could not have imagined. We have expanded our boundaries, changed locations, grown our programming, and even added pets to the list of clients we serve. We have been overwhelmed watching our neighbors and supporters respond each time we see a need or new opportunity to help those in need.

One day, I hope that organizations like ours will no longer need to exist. Food insecurity is a burden that no family deserves to experience. Not knowing where your next meal is coming from weighs heavily on your daily life and affects how you make decisions for yourself and your family. Our work is not just focused on providing food but also on providing the peace of mind that comes with having your family’s basic needs met. That is why at The Friendship Center, we have remained steadfast in our mission for more than 50 years.

As we reopen our doors on our beautiful, newly renovated space this month, we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to expand our reach and continue to serve our community. The dedication of our staff, donors, and volunteers gives us the confidence to keep dreaming, growing, and serving clients each day.

This summer, we invite each of you to join The Friendship Center in fulfilling our mission by volunteering, making a gift or donating to our “Restock Our Shelves” food drive which ends June 17th. The Friendship Center depleted our inventory in preparation for our renovation, but now that we have reopened, we need your help to restock the shelves for our food insecure neighbors. Any non-perishable food donation is appreciated, and can be dropped off at the following locations before June 17th:

Davis Theater, 4614 N Lincoln Avenue

Fresh Street, 6191 N Lincoln Avenue

33rd Ward Alderwoman Rossana Rodríguez‘s Office, 3001 W Irving Park Road

Now more than ever, we understand how unpredictable life can be, but together we can assure our neighbors that we will always be here to help.  

-Sarah Zimmerman, TFC Board Chair

About the Author:

Sarah Zimmerman works as the senior associate director, annual giving at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. With more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and management, she is responsible for driving strategy for the Law School’s annual fund and legal clinic. As a member of the board, Sarah supports The Friendship Center’s fundraising strategies, communications and strategic planning efforts.