How do I find people to feed?
March 22, 2010 10:43 PM   Subscribe

At the end of this year I am hoping to feed several families as a part of a charitable effort/challenge that I started for myself. I need advice and ideas on how to find families, how to feed the families, any problems that can come from this, etc.

I started a charitable effort, for lack of a better phrase. At year's end, I will be attempting to somehow feed families depending on the total amount of money that I raise. Since December 11th I'm up nearly 600 dollars. I may split this evenly among the families so you can just imagine how many families may be involved by the end if I give each family 100.

Problem is this: I don't know how to find families to feed, don't know how exactly to feed them (should I cook, give them money to cook, grocery store gift cards?) and don't know exactly what is the legal way to handle this. Should I join up with an organization? I really only know that I want to end this with families fed but don't know how to.

I am looking for any advice that I can get. This is not me and an organization already so that might make it tricky to feed families. This is just me giving myself a challenge that will last till Christmas and will end with me feeding as many people as I can. I had the idea of going to my family for help and I will be contacting them soon but I did plan to use this time early on to figure it out instead of heading into it with a set idea of how I would make it happen. I wanted to see if I found an idea that felt right.

I'm interested in any ideas you may have and if you're interested in more details about the effort as simple as it is feel free to message me.
posted by grablife365 to Human Relations (18 answers total)
Response by poster: Also, any creative, interesting advice is appreciated as well. I don't know what would make it more creative but I'm interested!
posted by grablife365 at 10:46 PM on March 22, 2010

Good on you. The best use of the money you end up raising will be to partner with an organization that already works to feed hungry families in the community you are hoping to help. They will already have the infrastructure and connections to efficiently feed far more people than you could on your own and will be able to most effectively get food to those who need it.
posted by kelseyq at 11:03 PM on March 22, 2010 [6 favorites]

Many agencies provide holiday food basket (including gift cards) to the people that they serve. The easiest thing is to volunteer to contribute gift cards (or cash) to one of these agencies which are already working with people who are hungry. Assuming you are in the US, you might contact your local Second Harvest Food Bank and find out which agencies they use to handle the last step of getting food to people. You could start with the agencies that sounded most to your liking and give them a call. I'm sure they would be delighted to hear from you and could let you know how best to help.

Personally, I would go for a grocery store gift card which allows the families to buy what they need but makes sure (sort of) that the money is spent on food.
posted by metahawk at 11:03 PM on March 22, 2010

Well, your profile says you're in Texas and cursory look at your previous questions indicates Houston, so that's helpful information.

That being said, as a former employer of a food bank, I have to say, that's the way to go. While you may not be going out and purchasing the food yourself, donating your money to a food bank makes the money go a lot further. Imagine: for the price of a turkey dinner for four, you could feed forty if the money is given to a food bank. I know that at the Greater Chicago Food Depository, my local food bank, a dollar can provide four meals for a hungry person. That's a lot better than you or I could do if we spent a dollar at a store.

Your local food bank is the Houston Food Bank, one of the food banks operated under the umbrella of Feeding America. In looking at their IRS form 990, they're doing quite well, and would spend your money wisely: they spend less than 5% of their donations on administrative and overhead costs, which means that 95 cents of your dollar goes towards feeding hungry people. Call them up and tell them you want to fundraise throughout the year. They can give you some pointers, some literature, and give you a goal. Good folks, those food bankers are.

I think other people will have plenty to say about your plan to find hungry people and feed them, but this nonprofiteer's (and former food banker's) opinion falls somewhere along the lines of "don't just find hungry people and buy them food." Yes, you should partner with an organization. No, you shouldn't buy the food yourself with the money you're saving.
posted by juniperesque at 11:04 PM on March 22, 2010 [9 favorites]

Your profile doesn't say where you are in Texas, but here is an excellent resource to start researching a target organization (or organizations): Capitol Area Food Bank. Their website confirms what I hinted at up there--the most effective way to help is to donate cash to people who already do this work. "For every $5 you give, the Food Bank can provide $25 worth of nutritious food for hungry Central Texans."
posted by kelseyq at 11:05 PM on March 22, 2010

As keseq noted above, Second Harvest is now called Feeding America on a national level. If you aren't in Houston you can go to the website to find your local food bank. If you want a more direct connection, you can look at their list of partners and find one to help which will give you a feeling of a closer connection although you will probably get more bang for your buck by donating at the level of the local food bank.
posted by metahawk at 11:11 PM on March 22, 2010

Great idea. Since you're donating the money, why not get a local chef or restaurant to donate their time to select appropriate food ingredients, recipes, etc., and give the families some cooking tips.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:05 AM on March 23, 2010

Can I suggest not restricting yourself to feeding "families"? It's financially tough to live as a single with nobody to share costs with, and so much emphasis on families has got to be alienating to people without families, aged people whose partners aren't around any more etc, who're also deserving!
posted by springbound at 3:19 AM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are two sides to this - fundraising and (later) disbursement of the money.

Spearheading a fundraising effort is great and something an individual can do in concert with his or her immediate community.

Doing something with the funds - that's a much bigger challenge and (as others here have noted) is probably best left to organizations that have experience, an established clientèle, and the general infrastructure to do it well.

So I would definitely do some research about organizations in your area that are involved in food aid in the community. Most likely they already have standard advice for how you can contribute (and it's probably a question of $$ not in-kind donations, but not always). Note that if these organizations are running a meal program you can also (often) put together a group and volunteer to serve dinners. This can also be a way for your friends who are not in a position to donate $$ to still make a valuable contribution.
posted by mikel at 4:57 AM on March 23, 2010

Best answer: Every December 24 (and Thanksgiving), the City Wide Club has the feast at the George R. Brown Convention Center. It is really amazing in both good (helping people!) and heartbreaking (so many people!) ways. You could donate through them, and then sign up as a volunteer to help with food service, distribution, cooking, or other activities.

For the 2009 Thanksgiving feast, they served 21,000 people and for the December feast they needed 5,000 volunteers. This news clip shows what it looks like. People get food, children get a toy, thousands of turkeys get cooked.
posted by Houstonian at 5:31 AM on March 23, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. Just to clarify, springbound, families aren't limited to anything. I'm my own family and I'm only one person so I'm using it as a general term. No restrictions.
posted by grablife365 at 5:33 AM on March 23, 2010

Best answer: Something else to think about - there are lots of organized charity events that focus around the Christmas/holiday season, and lots of fund raising campaigns around that time. I have heard (rumor??) that the rest of the year is really hard for food banks to manage. So if you decide to donate to an organization, maybe disburse the funds monthly or quarterly instead of saving everything until December.

Another idea (maybe not for you but for other readers) - are there any gleaning organizations in your area - where folks go out in the fields after the crop has been harvested and pick the leftovers to donate to food banks? That could be a meaningful way to donate time instead of money. I was visiting my parents in Phoenix last week and I figured that if someone could just knock on doors and pick a fraction of the oranges/grapefruits/lemons in everyone's yard they could have hundreds of pounds of food to donate.
posted by CathyG at 6:06 AM on March 23, 2010

If you're looking to feed international families, that's an option too. Your dollar can go a lot further in countries that can't afford to subsidize their own farmers billions of dollars to create mass quantities of food for export to other countries that actually can consume it but can't produce it. ;)

Anyway, there are lots of great orgs doing that, in myriad different ways. Heifer, Catholic Relief Services, CARE, Oxfam, World Vision, the list goes on. You can also donate to the UN orgs - UNICEF (for children), UNHCR (for refugees), World Food Programme (for the world's hungriest, in general).

Whichever route you go, I'd n'th the going with an established org that can deliver the most bang for your buck. And good on ya for making a change in the world.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:10 AM on March 23, 2010

It sounds like you want to make a personal effort. Call the United Way, and ask them to help you find a local charitable organization that serves the needs of poor people. Maybe you'd like to find families with disabled family members, and direct some grocery store gift cards to them. Or call a food bank, and arrange to give an extra food basket to the next 50 people who come in. You could sponsor a Sunday breakfast at a homeless shelter for a month. The United Way should know what resources exist in your area.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 AM on March 23, 2010

Best answer: I worked for Island Harvest (Long Island), a "subsidiary" of Feeding America, linked by juniperesque above. I know that Island Harvest was pretty small, and if you called and wanted to talk someone for advice on how to do whatever you want to do, they'd direct you to the right person and go all out to help you; they wouldn't just insist that you give a straight donation if you wanted to do something more personal or direct. So find your local chapter and give them a call.
posted by thebazilist at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2010

Not your question, but while I understand you want to make this a year-long effort, could you maybe keep a running total of how much you've donated but maybe consider donating earlier?

I know that hunger is a big problem when school is out because kids no longer get free lunch at school, and from what I've heard, people tend to be a ton more generous around christmastime but many organizations need funds more the rest of the year.

Might you consider making this biyearly or donating more often?
posted by R a c h e l at 5:07 PM on March 23, 2010

If your goal is to feed as many hungry people as possible and not self-aggrandizement, you will get the most bang for your buck by giving the money directly to one of your local food banks. They can combine it with their other resources to make bulk purchases as thus get a lot more food for the money than you could get on your own, and they already have hungry people coming to them thus eliminating your need to spend any time or money on finding people.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:54 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again for the answers. I am interested in donating but I do want to be able to help out in some way like volunteering and being able to actually see who gets helped so I will figure out who to work with and how to make that happen. I may not be able to do the donation more than once this year but I am still working it all out at this point. It is true that help is needed throughout the year so that makes sense. You've given me a lot to think about. Thanks!
posted by grablife365 at 3:13 PM on March 25, 2010

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