Online Registries Help PORCH Chapter Increase Food Donations

By Andrea Cash
Fight Hunger

PORCH’s model as a grassroots hunger relief organization  – with Neighborhood Coordinators hosting monthly non-perishable food drives to help fill the gaps in the existing food bank system – is extremely turn-key, replicable, and approachable. It’s also proven highly effective, resulting in more than $7 million worth of hunger relief delivered to communities across the country since the first chapter launched in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, North Carolina, in 2010. But PORCH’s infrastructure also allows individual chapters to innovate as they hear feedback from food donors, tailoring their messaging and their method for maximum impact. 

Marietta Chapter’s Latest Success

Case in point: The Marietta, Georgia chapter recently created online wish lists through Target and Amazon. With a few clicks, food donors can order and ship items – canned goods, boxes of cereal, boxes of dried pasta, and more – to PORCH Marietta founder Liz Platner’s door. Often, these generous neighbors donate more food when shopping online because items are sold in bulk; plus, they don’t have to think about loading heavy goods in their car or setting the items out on their porch on a designated pick-up day. This system also caters to a population that is increasingly accustomed to online ordering. 

Neighborhood Coordinators: Central to the PORCH Model

Neighborhood Coordinators are at the heart of the PORCH model, and Liz continues to lean on them when it comes to online ordering. When she receives items purchased from an online wish list, she takes a photo of the box and its contents and sends it to the donor’s Neighborhood Coordinator so that they can personally thank the donor and assure them that their shipment arrived safely. Then, Liz brings that food to the sort and keeps track of which boxes came from which neighborhood, so that any shipped food goes toward a neighborhood’s tally, just as the food collected at front doors does. 

“We started this as two new neighborhoods came on board in August, and most of the online donors were from those brand new neighborhoods – they went straight to online ordering,” says Liz. 

Marietta’s 10 Neighborhood Coordinators also pass along the links to the updated wish lists each month when they reach out to remind neighbors that PORCH donation days are quickly approaching. 

“We don’t want to become anonymous,” Liz says. “The whole point is to feel good about doing this together.” In other words, even when crucial components of the food donation process move to a virtual format, there can still be a feeling of camaraderie and fellowship among neighbors.

Easy Neighborhood Efforts, Maximum Impact 

Liz launched the Marietta chapter in February of this year. PORCH Communities connects new chapters with mentors and provides start-up kits with detailed instructions and advice, including marketing templates to help a new chapter get the word out about the venture.

Having lived in her neighborhood for more than 20 years, Liz says she has met a lot of neighbors through PORCH. 

To date, she has welcomed 99 unique donors. Of those, 15 have utilized the retailers’ wish lists. “It’s not a huge percentage of my people,” Liz says, “but those who use it consistently like this better.” 

One person even stopped Liz while she was out walking her dog to praise the convenience of the wish lists. “She said, ‘This is absolutely the best approach for me.’” 

The Marietta chapter serves two local food pantries – a smaller pantry usually receives about 100 pounds of food per month. Another pantry that runs its distributions from Brumby Elementary receives close to 1,000 pounds of food every month from PORCH donors. The pantry serves about 200 families per week, and half of those families have children who attend the elementary school. 

 “We have grown a lot,” Liz says. “We didn’t have a slow summer. We went from 500 pounds going to that pantry per month to almost 1,000 pretty quickly.”