Connecting Fresh Produce Donations to Emergency Food Providers

Table of Contents
  • What are Emergency Food Providers (EFPs)?
    • The Need
    • Types of EFPs
  • Steps to Donating to EFPs
  • Additional Resources

What are Emergency Food Providers (EFPs)?
The Need
According to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, about one out of six people living in Cook County are food insecure, meaning they do not know where their next meal is coming from.

Emergency Food Providers (EFPs) help to fill the gap when people do not have enough to eat. Many times, the donations they EFPs receive are limited, and do not include large amounts of fresh produce, so donations are often welcomed.

Types of EFPs
Food Pantry-Food pantries are sites where people can go to access free food resources to take with them to their homes. The majority of the food at pantries are non-perishable items, such as canned goods, rice, and pastas. Some food pantries are stand alone organizations, while many more are associated with faith-based organizations or social service agencies.

Hot Meal Program-Hot meal programs, also commonly known as "soup kitchens," are places people can go to eat a prepared meals.

Steps to donating to EFPs
  1. Determine how much produce you have to donate. Is this a harvest from your home garden? 20 pounds of produce from a donation drive at your community garden? Over 50 pounds from an urban farm? Larger donations are generally more useful at food pantries where the produce can be divided among many families. Smaller donations are often useful at hot meal programs where the produce can be incorporated into an already planned meal.
  2. Determine when your produce will be available for donation. EFPs often have limited storage and refrigeration space. It will be important to determine which day of the week the EFP has their food distribution and how you can work best with their operation. Also decide if this is a one time donation, or if you will be able to donate produce throughout the growing season.
  3. Contact EFPs. The Greater Chicago Food Depository has an extensive database of EFPs in the Chicago area which can be viewed here. Note that not all programs are listed on this website. It is also useful to talk to people in your community to see if there are other agencies that might be able to accept your donation.
  4. Determine how the produce will get to the EFP. Are you able to drop it off during certain times of the day? Will someone need to come pick up the donation?
  5. Be persistent. Hot meal programs and food pantries are often part of churches and other community organizations and often are run by volunteer staff who are only in the office periodically. If your first attempts at contacting an EFP is unsuccessful, do not get frustrated. The staff is in the community helping those who need it most. If your calls go unanswered, stop by the EFP in person.
  6. Once you get in touch with the EFP, discuss logistics of getting the produce to the people. There are many ways that growers and EFPs in Chicago are collaborating. Whether dropping donations off directly at a pantry or having a time people can pick up produce from your farm or garden at the site, forming a solid partnership is key.
  7. Celebrate that you have been able to provide those in need with an important source of fresh, healthy food!

Additional Resources
Greater Chicago Food Depository (General)
Greater Chicago Food Depository (Agency Locator)
Northwest Food Partners Network (NFPN):
Northside Anti-Hunger Network (NAAN): http://www.
Hope Response Coalition
USDA Let's Glean Toolkit