How to Start a Food Pantry

Food pantries provide free food for those in need. Just follow these guidelines, and start helping your community by starting a food pantry:

  1. Research local regulations Food pantries are subject to local regulations. Find out what the pertinent regulations are by contacting nearby food charity agencies or your local government. You can also form a partnership with an existing agency, which will provide you with some resources [source: Sugars].
  2. Define a mission Learn more about the needs of your community and identify whom you will serve [source: Montana Food Bank Network].
  3. Get an Internal Revenue Service tax exemption Food charities are normally designated a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization by the Internal Revenue Service. There are some exceptions to this rule, so you'll have to check with your local authorities regarding your tax status [source: Oregon Food Bank].
  4. Secure food storage Local authorities have rules requiring the safe and secure storage of excess food. There are usually temperature, size, location and equipment regulations [source: Chicago's Food Bank, Oregon Food Bank, Montana Food Bank Network].
  5. Create a budget Find funding, whether from a charity fund, donations, grants or other sources, to establish a cash flow to cover the costs of food, rent and other expenses [source: Chicago's Food Bank].
  6. Staff your pantry Recruit dedicated, reliable people to volunteer at your pantry. Some pantries pay employees. Keep your staff happy and feeling like they are a meaningful part of the team [source: Montana Food Bank Network].
  7. Set up transportation Food usually needs collecting and sometimes needs to be distributed. Make sure you have reliable and consistent transportation to meet the needs of your pantry [source: Montana Food Bank Network].
  8. Keep detailed records Keep a detailed account of all the food and donations you collect, and of the food you give out. Keep detailed lists of clients and their households, as well as how much food you give them and when. Keep accurate financial records too [source: Montana Food Bank Network].