Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How to Build Your Own Neighborhood Weekly Food Collection Program in 8 Easy-to-Follow Steps


Step One: Forget everything you know about food donation programs for your local community food bank.
One Can A Week is a weekly food donation “collection” program that requires you to visit your neighbors on Sunday between the hours of 11:30 am and 5 pm to collect food for the needy. When told this, many people think the idea is wonderful but they want their neighbors to drop the food off at their house or the local library. A few have even sent around flyers to their neighbors and got a little response but nothing happened beyond the second week. This is America and you can do anything you want. But if you are really looking to be successful with One Can A Week and want the respect and admiration of your neighbors, please go to Step Two. (Please click on photo to enlarge.)

Step Two: Think customer service.
Each one of your neighbors is your customer. You
ask them to participate in your personal community service program by donating a can of food each Sunday and in return, you promise to help them perform their community service by stopping by their homes to pick up their can each Sunday and deliver it to the community food bank. It’s a fine bargain and everyone wins. The value added is you and your neighbors are building your neighborhood back into a functioning, cohesive community.

Step Three: Read all of the collateral material and understand the purpose of each piece. To download each piece to your desktop or a specific file, click on the title Fact Sheet, etc., and/or the other document links at the end of Step Three.

Fact Sheet – This is a flyers that contains a brief explanation of your personal community service program and the need for food for the community food bank. It also lists contact information for both you and the community food bank.

Sign Up Sheet – It is best to just write down first names only, the house address and an email address if possible. People are somewhat resistant to giving out personal information so take as little as possible.

Thank You Card – Every time you pick up a donation you leave a Thank You card to tell you neighbor you were the one who took the can of food. Hand the Thank You card to your neighbor if he or she gives you the food personally. This activity creates a bond.

Sorry We Missed You Card – This card is left if there is no one home and there is no food on the porch. It is very important to leave this card because the next week you will probably receive twice the normal donation. Guilt is wonderful...sometimes and this is one of those times.

Photo ID – This demonstrates the transparency of the One Can A Week program because names, photos and phone numbers are on display. It helps create trust.

Business Card – As your program expands and you are willing to speak to other community groups about One Can A Week, you will need a business card.

Quarterly Report - Besides being your customers, your neighbors are your investors, too, and they want to see a return on their One Can A Week investment just as they expect to see a return on their financial investments. This report will help keep your neighbors committed to your personal community service project.

Download other documents or JPGs here: One Can A Week Instructions, One Can A Week Logo, One Can A Week Letterhead, Food Bank Photo, One Can A Week Poster, Table Sign, T-shirt decal.

Step Four: Customize your One Can A Week collateral material.
Open the Fact Sheet, Name Tag and Thank You and Sorry We Missed You cards Word documents and add your name and contact information. You can complete the Business Card later. (Name Tag lanyards are available at Office Max, Wal-Mart and Office Depot.) If you are not familiar with the Draw feature in Word, find someone who knows Word and he or she will be able to give you a quick lesson. Within a few minutes you will be able to make all of the changes easily.

Print 15 or so Fact Sheets on a color printer. The Fact Sheet is actually 8 ½” x 5 ½” and double sided. However, it is suggested you use a heavier, 8 ½” x 11” stock, say 28 lb. to print the document and cut it in half. Make sure when you print the second side, the paper is put back in the printer properly so the print will be right side up. Cut the printed pages in half.

Print 6 – 8 pages of the Thank You For Your Donation card. You can use scissors to cut up these cards or a small paper cutter. Since One Can A Week is a long term program it may be wise to invest in a paper cutter.

Print 4 – 5 pages of the Sorry I Missed You card. Use the paper cutter on these, too.

Print 1 sheet of the name tags on a coated photo paper and cut out the ID.

Print 2 copies of the Weekly Food Drive Sign Up Sheet form. Print more when needed. Also, a clipboard will come in handy when filling out this form on a neighbor’s porch.

Step Five: Call on your neighbors.
This is a slow growth program. Plan on visiting 10 or so new neighbors each Sunday. In other words, visit 10 the first Sunday. Visit those ten the next Sunday plus 10 new neighbors and so on. It may take you 8 or more Sundays to get around your whole neighborhood. If you are methodical in your approach to One Can A Week, you won’t burn out trying to do things all at once and your neighbors will be impress with how you are sticking to the program and that you are a person of your word.

On your first Sunday there is no need to be nervous because you should only call on neighbors you know best. They are going to be very receptive to your personal community service program.

Walk to the neighbor’s front door. Ring the bell or knock and then step back a few paces. This is especially important for neighbors you don’t know. With you standing far away from the door, they won’t hesitate to open it.

Tell them you are a neighbor and state your address. If you walk your dog in the neighborhood be sure to have a picture of your dog on your clipboard and tell your neighbor you are the one who walks this dog, pointing to the picture. In most cases they will recognize the dog and smile.

Now tell them you are collecting one can of food a week for the community food bank. It is your personal community service program and it is in response to the new administration’s call for more community service. Hand them the flyer and explain the process. They leave a minimum of one can a week on their porch which you will pick up. At the same time you will leave the Thank You card to tell them you are the one who took the can. Then ask, “Would you like to participate?” Do not use the word commit. That’s too strong.

Take their first name only and the house address. Tell them you are going to communicate with them weekly by email and you would like their email address if they don’t mind. You will get more email address after you pass out the first quarterly report on how much food the neighborhood donated.

Step Six: When the can is not on the porch.
Many neighbors will participate but they will forget to put out the can or they don’t feel like putting the can on the porch. Just knock on the door and say hello. Only a few will tell you that they haven’t gone to the market this week, etc. Be super friendly and say you will be back next Sunday. Most of the time they have food ready the next Sunday, because they don’t want to look bad in the eyes of a super friendly person who is trying to do some good.

Step Seven: Communicate…Communicate…Communicate.
There is only one reason you take the food directly to the Community Food Bank. You want an official weight on the food you’ve collected and you want to take a digital photo of the food in the basket or on the scale.

As stated above, besides being your customers, your neighbors are also your investors. They are donating one can a week and they want to know what happens to that can and how that can affects the One Can A Week program. The more they are kept in the loop the longer they will participate in One Can A Week.

The photos of the food will be used weekly in the emails to your neighbors in addition to the weekly collection tallies. It is suggested you visit and review weeks 1 – 7. Initially these posts start out as emails first and then are turned into blog copy. You can do the same.

Step Eight: The all-important quarterly report.
A template for the quarterly report will be provided to you. All you have to do is insert your own collection figures. Each quarter you should provide a printed copy of this report to each of your participating neighbors. They will appreciate receiving the report and learning how their investment in One Can A Week is performing. Also, this report is a very important communications tool for those who don’t have email.

One Can A Week is a very simple community service program that not only collects food for the needy but helps foster good citizenship and neighborhood involvement.

Have Fun and Good Luck!



  1. I would love to start "one can a week" in my neigborhood, but how do I know if someone has already started?
    How many houses on average to people usually stop at?

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    It's easy to tell. If you haven't been asked to leave a can on your porch each Sunday and/or you don't see cans on your neighbor's porch, then you can just jump right in and start your own One Can A Week program.

    There are about 220 homes in the Miles neighborhood and approximately 70% of my neighbors participate so that's somewhere around 154 homes. I cover that area in about 3 hours including a 45 minute lunch.

  3. Does it have to be done on Sunday? I personally observe that day as a day of worship and rest. The program seems very exciting and I would like to start a can a week program, however, I would like to do it on Saturdays or another day instead.
    Then our family would be able observe that day as a day of worship, while allowing our family to build this service program in our neighborhood.

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    I picked Sunday because it is the only day of the week when most folks are home. Saturday is just fine but I think it will take longer to build your program because many people will be out. You can leave literature, however, the face-to-face is what will build participation, commitment and your community.

    Please try Saturday and let me know how you are doing.


  5. maybe instead of knocking on all the neighbors doors you might could try a small plastic bin with "one can a week" stickers on them ,keep it out side the home for regular pickups. just like the recycle bin. People don’t mind given, its the inconvenience of the possess. make a card that hangs on a door knob with all the info mail them out on a Saturday they’d get there on Mon. or Tues. ask them “if they would like to be involved in such a greatly needed cause “to hang the card on the outside of their doors till Friday to receive a bin. then drive your rout drop your bins take the card file it for random thank you and update's and after awhile they'll be putting cans out like plastic and cardboard. those who didn’t hang the card will see their neighbors bin and might have a change of heart.
    Just a thought --- Joe Barr