Making the Most of Holiday Hunger Relief Efforts

During the holiday season, we see an increase in efforts to address hunger like food drives, fundraisers for area food banks and volunteering at food pantries, food banks, food rescue organizations or free, community meal programs. This additional help is welcomed by our hunger relief partners who support the 37 million people in the U.S. that struggle with hunger. That’s 1 in 9 people and includes more than 11 million children and nearly 5.4 million seniors. But, of all the different hunger relief efforts, what is the most impactful way that we can help our neighbors in need during this season of giving? I’ve shared some thoughts below to help answer that question.

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Consider donating cash instead of canned goods.

The Feeding America network of food banks is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. It’s comprised of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries. They say that the best way to support your local food bank is actually through donating money.

The Feeding America network partners with major manufacturers, retailers, and farmers to secure healthy food at a much lower price than what we would pay at the store. They are also able to purchase items that are most requested at food banks like fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins. These perishable items can’t be donated directly through food drives. They can purchase food directly from farmers in their food rescue program that would otherwise go to waste. And not all food banks have the capacity for large food donations due to limited storage space or the labor required to safely accept and inspect donations in compliance with food safety practices.

Learn more about fundraising on behalf of a local food bank or food pantry here.

Donate items that food banks need most.

I hope I didn’t dissuade you from hosting a traditional food drive if you are interested in doing so. Donating food to your local food bank can be a great way to get in the spirit of service for Thanksgiving. Participating in these drives can create meaningful holiday memories with members of your office, school or place of fellowship. However, it’s important to contact your local food bank before you get started. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for food banks. They can help you plan a successful drive and inform you of foods that are in high demand. Be sure to use the Guiding Stars to find nutritious options as you shop from their list.

Read more tips for hosting the best holiday food drive here.


Volunteering at a food bank or local food program is a great way to make an impact. It’s a popular activity this time of year for families, friends, and teams of all varieties. You can have a lot of fun and start a new tradition of giving back. Contact your local food bank, food rescue organization, free community meals site, or free meal delivery program. You can expect activities like distributing food to clients, serving a holiday meal, assembling food donations or delivering food to those in need.

Read how to volunteer at a food pantry during the holidays here.