How to Organize a Pet Food Drive

Organize a pet food drive to help animals in need, like this pitbull mix who is up for adoption.

Access to free pet food can make all the difference in helping families in need keep the pets they love. This in turn saves lives by reducing the number of pets who enter shelters. Learn how to organize a pet food drive to help support pets and the people who love them in your community.

Set your pet food drive goals

The general goals of a pet food drive are:

  • To collect donated pet food to help stock the shelves of a local pet food pantry that acts as a distributing organization to those in need
  • To assist individuals and families facing economic difficulty by providing free pet food to help them keep their pets
  • To increase awareness about homeless animals, adoptable pets, and community resources such as low-cost spay/neuter and other veterinary services

When planning your food drive, it is important to set goals and milestones. Having a clear idea of what you want to achieve helps everyone involved stay focused on the project. Consider setting some simple goals. For example:

  • To collect a total of 10,000 pounds of pet food at one large event
  • To collect 500 pounds of pet food every week for a month
  • To have five collection sites for one month
  • To hold a collection event once per month for a year

Remember to set realistic goals that reflect the resources and demographics of your community.

Find a food pantry partner

Some pet food drives provide pet food to food banks that work with people in need while others benefit animal shelters or rescue groups. Working with an existing food pantry helps support the community by allowing the food to be distributed by an organization that has experience and expertise in this area.

Some food pantries are large city or statewide organizations. Most large food banks do not distribute food directly to the public but instead work with smaller partner agencies by supplying food to them for distribution. And some communities have numerous smaller food pantries that operate in conjunction with animal rescue groups, shelters, or organizations that provide human social services.

Before undertaking a food drive, identify and contact an existing food pantry in your community and establish that they will be willing to take the pet food you collect.

Questions to ask:

  • Do they provide collection bins?
  • Can they pick up the food you collect? When? How often?
  • If not, what are the drop-off hours?
  • Are there any other requirements or guidelines to follow?

Decide your collection strategy

A one-day event held in a prominent location with colorful signage and run by enthusiastic volunteers generates excitement. Retailers that sell pet food or provide pet services are often eager to host an event, and being at a location where people can easily purchase food to donate will increase collections.

On the other hand, an ongoing effort with unmanned collection bins available provides flexibility and allows you to collect food for a longer period of time. Many businesses are open to putting out a collection bin, and some might even want to hold an in-house employee pet-food drive.

If you're not sure which strategy to choose — a one-day event or something ongoing, consider a combination of both. This will often bring in the most donations.

Build a support base

One person sitting at a table collecting pet food can make a difference, but if you want to gather a lot of food, you’re going to need help. Ideally, you’ll find allies who will commit to the cause. 

Religious groups are often willing to help. Schools or parent-teacher associations, as well as scout troops and service clubs, also might like a community service project. You can also consider teaming up with animal rescue groups, nonprofits, and other animal lovers who are dedicated to helping pets stay with their families.

Here are some other suggestions:

  • Ask your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. Start with the people you know and see whether they know others who want to get involved.
  • Use social media to get people involved. Be sure to include the pertinent details (when, where, contact information) and a compelling description of the project that will make people want to join you. 

Get the word out

Getting the word out about your pet food drive will help ensure the success of your project. Start by creating a flyer that provides the details of who, what, where, when, how, and why. Post your flyers all over town (with permission, of course). Also, email copies to everyone you know and ask them to post the flyers in their workplaces and the businesses they frequent.

Create smaller versions of the flyer to use as bag stuffers for retailers, especially if you will be holding a collection event there. And consider creating a press release to send to local media outlets.

Sometimes staging a promotional event and inviting the media can be helpful. For example, find someone who has received — or who would like to receive — pet food from the food pantry and who is willing to talk to the media. Then invite the press to meet you at the food pantry to interview the person and the food pantry coordinator. You can talk about what it means to get help with pet food.

Keep the momentum going by posting pictures online, especially for an ongoing pet food drive. To show how the food drive is helping keep pets in their homes, consider telling the story of a particular family and their pet.

Ready, set, collect: A few more details

If you’re doing an event, use signage — such as posters, sandwich boards, and banners — that will call people’s attention to your pet food drive. Streamers, flags, balloons, special T-shirts, or costumes also can add a festive touch.

If you’re setting up unmanned collection sites, make sure your containers are clearly marked. And post flyers nearby that explains the project, including the name of the food bank or pantry you’re working with.

It's also a good idea to create a list of animal shelters and rescue groups in your area. Include each organization’s location, website, email address, and phone number. Then, make copies to hand out to people at the food drive who want to get a pet and are interested in adopting. You can find organizations in your area by visiting

Tracking the pet food donations

Some food pantries will weigh the food for you and report the total. (We recommend that you only use pet food that is sealed in the original manufacturer’s packaging and is not expired.) If they don’t weigh the food, you’ll need to keep track yourself.

Monetary donations

If you’re doing an event, some people might want to donate cash, so be prepared to accept money. Have a donation jar or cash box handy. You can use this cash to purchase additional pet food. If you’re going to be buying a large volume of food, talk to the store manager about a discount.


If you’re having an event, no matter how many volunteers you have it’s a good idea to designate roles. That way, everyone feels comfortable and has a plan. 

You should have someone designated as the leader to keep things going smoothly, one or two people to greet the public and explain the project without being pushy, someone responsible for the donation jar, and one or two detail-oriented helpers to keep track of the quantities of food being donated. If the food bank is not able to pick up the food at the end of the day, you might also need help with moving and transporting.

Also, if you’re setting up collection sites, be sure to have someone check the bins often and take away enough of the food to prevent an overflow, which could create a problem in the place of business.

Finally, thank your volunteers sincerely and often.

Pets at the event

Although bringing your well-behaved pets to an event might generate interest in what you’re doing, having pets at your food drive could also create a distraction. Some people might crowd in to see the animals and keep you from interacting with potential donors.

Having pets present also creates a possible hazard. For example, if you’re doing the event in a parking lot or in front of a store, traffic and exhaust fumes might be a danger for pets. Some pets also might become stressed by meeting so many strangers. The weather might be a problem. And you'll need to be careful that your pet doesn’t wander away while you’re not paying attention.

In short, consider all potential hazards before deciding to bring your pet along, and have a plan for someone to be able to take your pet home if necessary. That way, you can focus all your energy on ensuring that your pet food drive is a success.