Student-Powered Hunger Relief

Food Donation Plan



This is easily one of the biggest unknowns in developing your Campus Kitchen, and for many schools, the food supply is the limiting factor of operations. Your job is to find a diverse supply of food donations – donations from several places, not just one dining hall – and to make use of small donations in creative ways.

Remember to balance your resources: food, space for operations, clients and volunteers. Think of them as four parts of a balanced Campus Kitchen scale. Your job is to try to make them all even and then eventually to keep them all growing. To start, you will need to identify your limiting factor, or the component that you have the least of. For example, if you’ve got tons of food, plenty of kitchen space and hundreds of people who need food, but only eight total volunteers, then your limiting factor is volunteers. Find what limits your plan the most, and start from there. You can always grow more in the future.

Food donation facts and hints 

Steps to make your food donation plan

Food donation facts and hints

Key points to keep in mind about food donations:

  1. Donated food cannot be food that was served or put out on a buffet line. That is “consumer waste” and is not an acceptable food donation. By ensuring that this type of waste doesn’t make its way into our food donations, we avoid many of the liability issues that schools fear.
  2. Donated food does not need to be in large quantities. As your varying meal recipients will need different things, every donation can be usable  A donation of 2 chicken breasts or half a pan of vegetables can definitely make a nourishing meal for a family. Large-scale food providers don’t usually think of that much food as “waste” – it doesn’t even cross their minds. This is a significant thing to explain to dining services when discussing what they project they will be able to donate.

3. All Campus Kitchens maintain a comprehensive food safety and tracking system as part of its compliance and reporting. This is called a HACCP system. Using our paperwork system, you will be able to track the temperature and location of every food donation from the time it’s donated to the time it’s prepared, delivered, and served. That’s a promise to help keep your clients safe, your volunteers accountable, and your dining services team feeling secure and motivated to help you with food recovery.

4. Campus Kitchen meals have an average of one pound of food each. As you are figuring out how much food you will have, you can estimate how many meals you can do! If you’re receiving 20 lbs per week from dining services, 100 lbs per week from the food bank, and 25 lbs per week from grocery store food drives, you could estimate that you could do about 100 – 145 meals per week, as long as the food you’re receiving is a balance of protein, starches, vegetables and fruits.

Steps to make your food donation plan

  1. Meet with your dining services representative: Once you have established a partnership with dining, it will be easier for them to commit to working with you on estimating how much food they can donate.
  2. Tour the dining halls at closing time with your dining services representative: Take a look at what food is un-served at the end of the night. Start to think about it in terms of meals. Does it look like enough to feed a family of 5 or a shelter of 50? Would they be able to donate that much food every day? Are there any times when they would have more or less? Are there other dining halls that could donate food? Would the quantity be more or less at those? These answers will help you make your plan.

3. Visit your local food bank: Check out and find your local chapter, and then go for a visit. Your Campus Kitchen should be able to apply to be a “member agency” which means that you can “shop” at the food bank and get dry goods, produce and frozen food for your Campus Kitchen, often at around 10 cents a pound. When you go, ask to meet with the agency relations person, and ask them the following questions:

  • Could our Campus Kitchen apply to be a member agency here?
  • What is the process for becoming a member agency?
  • Would we be eligible for USDA commodities? (This is another source of food supplies that is great if you are eligible)
  • What kind of food donations are your member agencies getting?
  • How much food could we get each week?

4. Think about grocery stores, farmers markets, and farms: Consider supplementing your food donations through food drives at grocery stores and farmers markets. One way to do this is to create a grocery list and have a team of students standing at the door asking shoppers to pick up one thing on the list while they’re shopping. Shoppers like it because it’s easy and they don’t have to give you cash. Your Campus Kitchen will like it because you can specify what foods you really need. And the grocery store likes it because it’s more business for them! When you’re planning your Campus Kitchen, decide which grocery stores or farmers markets would be best, and then go talk to their manager or market chair. Bring them some information about the Campus Kitchen. Then, tell them exactly what you want to do, ask if they’d be willing to host your food drive at their store, and ask them how often the Campus Kitchen could do a food drive. You can expect to get 50-100 lbs of food at every food drive you do (that’s enough food to feed 100 people!). So if you did one each month, that would translate to enough food for 25 people per week.

You may also want to approach local farmers to see if you can glean from their farms for your Campus Kitchen. There is a great national organization call The Society of St. Andrew that can connect you to local farms that you can glean at in your area or even have fresh produced delivered right to your Campus Kitchen.

5. Think about a small amount of food purchasing: Budgeting for food purchasing is an important part of the planning in most Campus Kitchens. Figure out where in your community would have the best prices, and how you might plan for food purchasing. Ask them if they could offer you a regular discount at their store in exchange for including them as sponsors of your Campus Kitchen. Or talk to your dining service provider about whether you could order food through their provider (usually a big company like Sysco). Often, you can use their buying power to make a purchase stretch a little further, and often, those companies have “sales” on certain products each week when they’re trying to reduce inventory. If you plan for about $100 a month of food purchasing, you should expect to be able to feed an additional 50 people per month.

6. Make your plan. So you’ve talked to dining services, the food bank, and grocery stores, and you’re ready to make a plan. Try to answer all of the following questions:

  • How many pounds of balanced food each week do you think you can get? (If you think you can get 40 lbs of a variety of foods, and then an additional 100 lbs of desserts, you should go with “40”, not “140.”)
  • To get that food, how often will you do food pick-ups on campus? How often will you go to the food bank? How often will you do a grocery store food drive? How often will you shop for or order food? Create a schedule of operations that shows when each of these things will happen in the course of a month.
  • Is that schedule feasible for you? Remember:
    • You’ll need at least 2 volunteers for every food pick-up on campus
    • You’ll need 2 people and a big car or truck for every food bank trip
    • You’ll need 5-6 people and 4 hours for every grocery store food drive
    • You’ll need $100 for every food order or shopping trip.
    • How many meals do you estimate that you can do with the food you have?
    • Are you happy with that plan? If not, why? What can you change and how?

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