How To Organize a Pet Food Drive
An easy-to-follow guide to creating your own community event
In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, news headlines were all about food insecurities and food shortages. It was around that time that my sister Joy and I had started volunteering with TCV Foodbank in Fremont, California, once a week.
During the couple of hours spent handing out food, I started to notice that a lot of people were driving by with pets in their cars. You can tell some of these folks lived in their cars and their pets were their most precious possession. And so, I asked TriCity Foodbank if they’d ever had a Pet Food Drive before. They said they’ve always wanted one but just didn’t have someone to coordinate it and make it happen. And with that greenlight, I raised my hand and volunteered for the challenge.
Finding the Opportunity
But before I get into the nitty-gritty details, I want to tell you a bit about the TriCity Foodbank and the wonderful work they’re doing. The mission of the foodbank is to eliminate hunger and promote financial self-sufficiency in Alameda County, by distributing food and providing volunteer opportunities to improve the quality of life for all in our community. Currently the food bank serves about 6,000 families.
I was first introduced to the foodbank during one of the community service projects our church (Church Of Christ) did, which was coordinated by my sister Joy. And from there she found out that they were always looking for volunteers to help in their daily food drive where people can get the help that they needed with a bag of groceries that they can get in their trunks every day.
The four-legged inspiration behind the food drive
So, as Joy and I volunteered, I could feel the gentle tug at my heart strings with every car that passed by with pets. As a fur mom myself, I knew exactly how pets can change people’s lives. Koopa, our nearly 2-year-old puppy at that time, had become the baby in our family. Having him around especially during the first few months of the strict lockdown made the uncertainty a bit more bearable.
I wanted that same feeling for the fur-families I was seeing at the food bank.
Steps to organizing the food drive
So with Koopa, aka our muse, and friends who loved Koopa just as much as we did, I knew that I could gather enough pet food donations to hold a pet food drive.
Here are the steps that it took to sponsor a pet food drive and how we pulled it off in less than two months:
- Contact your local food bank to see if they’d be interested in doing a Pet Food Drive. If the answer is yes, find out a date that they would like to hold it on, that way, you’ll know how much time you must gather donations.
- Create a social media post to promote the Pet Food Drive. Include the details of what donations you’re looking for. Indicate if you’re looking for both dog and cat food, treats, dry or wet food, etc. I used a free design app called Canva where they already have pet themed templates.
- Post your graphic on your social media and watch all the interests pour in.
Pro-Tip: I found that some would rather Venmo me, especially those that don’t live near us but there were some who asked, “when can I drop off the donations?”
- Reach out for more donations. Create a list of all your local pet store chains near you and start calling and see if they’d be willing to donate. What I found out was most pet store chains do quarterly donations to pet shelters. There were some who said they had just donated but to call in a month or a few weeks. Most pet stores will also have overstock of certain pet food.
Here’s a script I used when I called Pet Stores that you can try, and make sure when you call, ask for the store manager: “Hi, I’m Aliw, I’m a volunteer at Tri City Foodbank in Fremont and we’re holding a Pet Food Drive, what pet food would _______ (name the store) like to donate?”
Don’t ask them ‘if’ they’d like to donate, go straight to what they’d like to donate that way you lead with an open ended question that will lead to an open conversation, instead of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. In the end, I was able to get 7 bags of pet food donations along with treats from local pet food stores which were their surplus stock inventory.
- Keep everyone excited! With each donation I received, whether it be a trip I made to the store and hauled 2 bags of cat food, I took a picture and posted it on my social media account and tagged the people whose funds I used. It was my “thank you” post but it was also my continued promotion to the upcoming Pet Food Drive to show people that they can still donate.
Soon enough, our garage started to look like a pet food store with all the bags of
donations we were receiving. I was thrilled. I also kept Tri City Food Bank updated with the progress by letting them know how many donations we had received and roughly how many bags we would be able to hand out.
- Be sure to have promotions done by the food bank you’re working with as well. Tri City Food Bank posted promos on their social media accounts about the upcoming pet food drive.
- A week before the pet food drive, I asked a few friends and family to come and help us pack the food. Here are essentials in packing:
- Bought a lot of 1 gallon zip lock bags.
- Created labels for “Cat Food” and “Dog Food” and of course put a picture of our own ‘Koopa’ on the sticker, along with the INCGIVING.ORG website for people to check out upon receiving our donations.
- Pizza and snacks for the packing crew to make the packing fun.
- As the day of the drive got closer, I asked friends who were all pet lovers as well who would be interested in helping us pass out the pet food, and asked them to all wear their INCGiving shirts. And soon, we had enough volunteers for the whole day.
And on the day of the Pet Food Drive, the food bank placed our table right at the entrance of the driveway. Koopa did his part too. Looking handsome with a bandana around his neck, he greeted cars as they entered.
People rolled down their windows and asked to confirm if the dog food was free. Sometimes, it would take a second for them to realize that free pet food was part of the day’s donations they could receive.
Some had their pets with them and Koopa gladly ran up to their cars to say hello. Within two hours or so, our supply began to dwindle. I must say, I was surprised on how many more cat owners there were than dog owners. The cat food went by quick, along with the cat litter and canned food that the Tri City Foodbank had which had been donated by others.
In the end, we were able to pack 300 bags of pet food and served over 200 families in one day.
In the end, our family felt good that we were able to put a little project together to help families that loved their pets as much as we did ours but were going through hard times. If there’s one thing we learned, it doesn’t take much to help, just a bit of time and finding others who are willing to do the same and give a piece of their hearts as well.
Now it’s your turn!
Is there something you are passionate about that could help someone in your community? Do a quick search online and find ideas on how to create a community event on your own. Once you come up with an idea, let us know! We’d love to stay connected and follow you as you organize your own community service event.
You don’t need too many people to make a difference. Sometimes all you need is an idea.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Aliw Pablo is the supervising producer at INCMedia.org and host of Making Changes podcast. She’s a fur mom who isn’t shy to admit that she spoils her beloved Koopa. Aliw enjoys learning from podcasts, writing and spending time with her husband and their two children and puppy.