Stock a Healthy Food Pantry


Brown County developed a simple messaging campaign to help support their Healthy Food Pantry Initiative. The “Food Drive Five” is promoted in flyers, social media, and press coverage. The “Food Drive Five” includes: Protein Foods: peanut butter, nuts, seafood and poultry; Fruits packed in juice, dried or sauced fruits; Soups that are low in sodium and that contain proteins and vegetables; Whole grain cereals and pastas; and Colorful vegetables.


Establish a nutrition policy

Adoption of a nutrition policy allows pantries to clarify the steps they’ll take to promote their guests’ health. A nutrition policy can guide food purchases made to supplement donated foods. A strong nutrition policy might also include language restricting the types of food donations the pantry is willing to receive. In general, nutrition policies should follow a healthy eating pattern as outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Sample nutrition policy languageTools_Red


Educate your donors

Community food donations can be a major source of food for pantries. It is important to educate donors about the types of food the pantry wishes to receive. Donors often prefer to give to a pantry what it needs and are grateful for any ideas offered. Making the pantry’s needs and principles clear help others to be a part of the vision, kindness, and generosity that makes a community strong.

Here are some ideas for building relationships and educating donors:


  • Meet with donors to build relationships.
  • Provide donors with a copy of your nutrition policy; be sure to explain why it was created and what your pantry hopes to accomplish.
  • Provide donors with a list of critical and preferred foods and post this information on your website.
  • If arranging for a “Sack Hunger” food drive with a local grocery store, provide the store with a list of preferred foods to include in the packages.


  • Provide food drive organizers with a copy of your nutrition policy; be sure to explain why it was created and what your pantry hopes to accomplish.
  • Educate food drive organizers about how their donations can help the pantry meet the nutritional needs of the clients.
  • Distribute press releases to local media about desired food donations.
  • Provide donors with a list of critical and preferred foods and post this information on your website.
  • Invite civic groups and businesses to support a “healthy foods initiative” and publicize their names on your website.
  • Finally, remember to thank your donors. Recognize your donors where possible and continue to involve them in your work.

Tools_RedPress release
Stocking a healthy food pantry checklist
Stocking a healthy food pantry donor letter
Sack Hunger package suggestions
Brown County Food Drive 5 Toolkit

Riverwest Food Pantry Flyer Example

Find fresh produce

In a recent survey conducted by UW-Extension, food pantry guests expressed an overwhelming desire for more fresh produce. Here is a list of ideas to consider for finding more fresh produce for your pantry:

  • Work with local partners and Master Gardener Volunteers to establish and maintain a Plant a Row for the Hungry program in your community.
  • Partner with a local farmers’ market to glean produce at the end of a weekly market. Youth-service and other community groups might be willing to support your pantry in collecting and delivering the produce to the pantry.
  • Partner with a local farmer and community groups to glean un-harvested “seconds” from fields. Some farmers may also be willing to sell their fresh local product at a reduced price to food pantries.
  • Let local community supported agriculture (CSAs) farms and drop-off sites know that your pantry would be willing to accept unclaimed and extra weekly produce shares.
  • Register your pantry at Ample Harvest to inform local gardeners and farmers of your desire for more fresh produce. Ample Harvest provides fliers and publicity for pantries and community partners.Committed farmers can also invest directly in an acre of produce or share excess produce with food banks via the Harvest to End Hunger WI initiative.
  • Contact local grocers or food processing plants about donating excess quality produce.
  • Contact your local food bank to ask about the availability of fresh produce. The amount of available fresh produce at food banks has grown tremendously in recent years.