Get Started with the PORCH for Pantries program

By Aimee Stone Munsell
Fight Hunger

Do you want to help people in a meaningful way? Feel more connected to your community? Do you wish it was easier to help others? That’s why PORCH is here.

PORCH Communities makes it easy to start a local hunger relief program to help fill the gaps in the food bank system. We make it convenient for local recipients to pick up the specific food items that meet their dietary, cultural and food prep requirements. Our model has successfully inspired and sustained volunteer leaders across America, bringing communities together by making it easy for neighbors to help neighbors.

PORCH for Pantries: All local PORCH chapters start by coordinating monthly neighborhood food drives. Here is how it works:

  1. Identify a local pantry partner to receive your neighbors’ donations
  2. Introduce PORCH to your community
  3. Run your first PORCH for Pantries food drive

Let’s break each of these down so you have a good sense of what it takes to actually do these three steps. Keep in mind the PORCH Communities team and resources are here to support you throughout the process.

1. Identify a pantry to receive donations 

To make sure your donations are as useful as possible, partner with a local pantry. You can find local pantries by searching online, talking to your school or county social workers, or asking a contact you have in another non-profit serving low income neighbors. The PORCH Communities team can also help you find and approach pantries in your area.

Reach out to the pantry either through a phone call or email (you can often find online) and introduce yourself, PORCH and let them know that you plan on holding monthly food drives. You can find out if there’s a preferred week and/or day for receiving donations and if there are any specific needs for the month of your first collection.  

In addition to simply needing more food, pantries often have specific requests at any point in time based on what they’ve been able to purchase in bulk and their clientele’s needs. Ethnic foods, healthy choices, or items suitable for certain life stages (ie baby food) are some of the donations partner pantries have been thrilled to have PORCH chapters collect for them.  

2. Introduce PORCH to your community 

Once you have a food pantry partner lined up, nowit’s time to publicize PORCH in your community and the date of the first monthly food drive. Give yourself extra time to promote this first food drive since it will be new to people. PORCH Communities provides every new chapter with a promotional tool kit with materials (yard signs, postcards, emails, social media posts, sign up forms etc) and advice on how to get the word out.  Ask everyone to join your email list and/or follow you on social media so you can remind them when each monthly PORCH for Pantries collection date is coming up. A few tips for getting going:

3. Run your first PORCH for Pantries Food Drive

PORCH Communities will train you on the food drive process already in use in more than 400 neighborhoods. Depending on the size of your collection territory, the whole process typically  takes 3-6 hours during one to two days each month. Here is how it goes:

  1. Advertise food drive details:  Through email, flyers, social media or texts, let your neighbors know what pantry you’ll be supporting and the collection date to put unexpired, non-perishable donations out on their front porches and ask them to sign up in our form. 
  2. Pick up donations: On the designated day, you (and any friends or family you’ve recruited) drive around and pick up the donations. 
  3. Deliver donations to pantry: Weigh your donations and record this (your impact) with PORCH Communities. Check with your local pantry and coordinate drop-off times. (Most pantries have set times.) 
  4. Thank your neighbors! Send a thank you and summary of impact to your email list and on social media

As your PORCH chapter grows, you’ll recruit volunteers to serve as Neighborhood Coordinators, each managing the food drive and picking up donations in a different part of your area. , Some PORCH chapters decide to sort and repack the donations so they can distribute todistributeto more than one pantry. PORCH Communities provides resources such as a Neighborhood Coordinator Manual to support you as your chapter grows.

What comes next

After you have your first food drive complete (Congratulations!!), there are 2 ways to sustain your hunger relief efforts: (1) Repeat your food drive monthly and (2) Participate in monthly PORCH Forums and other knowledge sharing opportunities for ongoing support and inspiration. 

Over time, when you are ready, you can expand your chapter’s impact by increasing the number of donors participating in your PORCH for Pantries food drives and/or by adding food programs such as PORCH Fresh or PORCH for Schools.  Whenever and however you decide to grow, you’ll find all the camaraderie, practical help, and all the visible impact you wish for in PORCH Communities.