How can I go about starting a food bank, not just a pantry?

I’ve been buying food from local Food Banks for my food pantry to feed the needy clients that comes to our office. It’s getting very expensive for us and we’ll probably have to close down if we don’t find another alternative. We have the space but not the food. I know that the food bank gets the food for free and that’s what we want to do. We could also provide free food to other food pantries that are going through the same things that we are. Is there any hope for us?


Find a place to store the food so nothing spoils. Contact local organizations around in your area that can help you bring in food donations. Let other food banks know of your operation. Set up a specific and time schedule that lets others know when they can receive from food you. Hold a food drive. Make sure you get boxes and grocery bags prepared to put food in for your clients.

You should have no problems and, yes, there is hope.

Answered 6 years ago

Very nice of you! Now a mind shift here: this is business. It is a not-for-profit business, but it still has the same rules as any other business.

You still need to advertise. You still need Traffic...people to learn about what you need & do. And you still need Conversion...people to do the thing to help you.

Who can you partner with who can tell others you exist? Salvation Army comes to mind. Back in my home town the SA had a partnership with the Food Bank and a college to create a chef's training program for people who had had a rough life. Who can you partner up with to spread the word of what you're doing, and that you need food donations?

Have you talked to managers of local grocery stores? That's where most of the fresher donations came from -- pinwheel steaks, produce, and other goods *about* to spoil. "Have you had to throw away a lot of food that was still good to eat but at its sell-by date? Yes? Then we have a good home for it and will be happy to take it off your hands--and turn that shelf space back to something profitable for you."

I'm sure you'll have to sign a waiver holding them harmless from whatever happens from their food donation, ie. someone eats it and gets sick.

I walked into two branches of a chain store plus another chain grocery recently and saw the same cereals from the same manufacturers so heavily discounted they were obviously being cleared from the shelves. Why? Just out of basic curiosity I wanted to talk to the managers. But that is me...I think like a marketer. What could you do with such a situation?

In your advertising and messaging with your promotion partners (who do people who need food security go to before they go to the Food Bank? Make a list), be clear on what you want people to do. What should they bring? Where should they go? How will you make it easy for them?

Obviously it's easy to get the creamed corn cans and harder to get the produce. What can you do give incentive to people to bring more of the products you want? Get that on the promo message.

In every community there are "busybodies"'s a bad term I know but I can't think of a better one right now. These are the handful of people who are connected with everyone else and pushing helpful programs like this. I used to be connected with them in my home town (before moving 3000 miles away 9 years ago lol). Being endorsed by them is a way to get instant publicity and effort on your project. Find them and win them over. You have a track record, which is super're a doer not a dreamer. Make it easy for them, that they don't have to do anything but talk about you, and they will talk about you to their friends. And their friends are all in that "Get Things Done" network.

Heck, you probably know these people already. Be Louder ;-)

Answered 6 years ago

You could start your own non-profit and try to build the partnerships from scratch based on the existing resources you may already have in place. However, after starting multiple non-profits myself, the best path for something like this may actually be to gain a fiscal sponsorship with a parent organization that has deeper resources and partnerships in non-profit activities, but doesn’t have a food pantry yet. Essentially, finding a private foundation that is interested in serving the needs of this space, has the budget and partnerships, but doesn’t have the human resource or time to create the activities to execute it — that’s your fiscal sponsor.

From an organizational and tax structure benefit, there are many positives to taking this approach: 1) You can still apply for grants when you have a fiscal sponsor and because of the parent organization, you often have better resources, support, and brand credibility to get those grants than if you were starting on your own. It’s like saving 3-5 years of time answering the “why should we support you” question. 2) The parent organization handles all of your filings and accounting to keep you legal, so you can focus on operating. Usually their organization will have a CPA on board that will manage your accounts, payroll, withholding, annual filing, in exchange for a small percentage of your revenue (3-6%). This is a small fee you agree to pay to ensure that the parent organization isn’t taking advantage of their accountant, who is paid to oversee the accounts. This fee should never be seen as the reason to have a fiscal sponsor relationship - as there are many more benefits I’ve listed above - it’s just house keeping. 3) The fiscal sponsor’s board is not necessarily your board, but their broader mission and vision should be aligned to yours. Your board members determine your activity and likely support the major project management decisions involved in the execution of your programming; however, the board of the parent organization has the right to refuse budget decisions on your operations. This never happens if you choose the right fiscal sponsor and are approaching your budget with logical considerations. They are there to help you make those logical decisions and a parent organization often has too many projects to worry about so they would never benefit from micromanaging yours. 4) You’ll leverage additional resources they have in terms of non-profit insurance rates, legal/contract fees if needed, operational resources, partnerships for cost-effective operations, etc.

Overall, you have a very clear vision for what you want to do. This is a project that other non-profits could also easily understand, support, and benefit from the execution of. It’s a win-win when they leverage their existing resources through a fiscal sponsorship that will allow you to operate, not worry about all the legal aspects of maintaining a 501c3 designation with the IRS, or building your brand before you can get others to support your vision. By leveraging the brand, resources, and support from a private foundation or larger non-profit that is looking to expand as a fiscal sponsor, you’ll likely save years of time and jump ahead to making immediate impact.

Answered 6 years ago

Hi, I served on the board of a rural food pantry that was supported by the largest food bank in the country, Feeding America. 1. Find out where the closest Feeding America managed food bank is to your location. Talk with them about developing a food bank for your area and being part of their network.
2. Reach out to area universities and colleges for assistance in writing and researching grant proposals. Consider using grant money to purchase freezers and conditioned warehouse space to store produce. Also consider using grant money to compensate small farms for produce to offset their costs and to receive higher quality products. I'd love to work with you through this process. Please send me a message to connect.

Answered 6 years ago

To set up a food bank, you need to register it as a non-profit organization. The process of registering your business as a non-profit organization is a little bit different from other profit-oriented businesses. First, you would need to register your business with your state because only then would you be permitted to run your business as a non-profit organization. In addition, to qualify as a non-profit business, you would need to convene a board of community stakeholders and write bylaws which would describe your business operating procedures. Your food bank would also need to have some vital insurance policies in place depending on your state’s requirements. Financing a business like this is relatively easy because if you know where to look, you will find a lot of willing partners to support you.
The first factor to consider when choosing a location for your food bank is accessibility. People who visit food banks are often stereotyped and looked down upon and this prevents some people who really need your services from visiting because of the fear of ridicule. You should try as much as you can to locate your food bank in a place that guarantees some measure of privacy for your clientele. You need some basic equipment and manpower requirements to run your food bank business. The first option is regarding the packing method. You would need to decide whether you want you adopt the pre-packing model where the foods are already packed, and clients simply need to pick up their food packs. The second method you could adopt is the pack-as-you-go method. This method allows you to cater to clients with special dietary needs. A lot of food banks choose to serve only people who earn less than a specific sum monthly. Documentation of your clientele is also important.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 3 years ago

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