Sunday School Thanksgiving Food Drive: A Kids Contest that Helps Needy Families

Many churches turn towards the thought of a Thanksgiving food drive during the month of November. It is a productive way to get an entire congregation to donate non-perishable food items to make food baskets for needy families in the community.

Do you want to make your church’s food drive even more successful? Sunday school students can compete for ribbons and earn rewards for helping out with this worthy cause.

Decorate Thanksgiving Food Drive Boxes

The first step for this activity is to have each participating Sunday school class decorate a big cardboard box to house donations. Boxes can be donated by local grocery stores or discount stores. They always have plenty of empty boxes to spare.

When handing out these boxes, it also helps have a schedule that indicates when the boxes will be decorated, how long classes have to bring in donations, and when judging and awards will be completed.

Each class will undoubtedly have their own ideas for decorating a box, so materials are often left for the teachers to decide upon. Possible decorating materials to use may include:

  • Feathers
  • Fake leaves
  • Turkey cutout
  • Glitter
  • Colored butcher paper
  • Stickers
  • Construction paper cutouts
  • Letter stencils

Teachers should be prepared ahead of time with materials, so a day can be set aside for decorating the box. Teachers should also keep in mind that this day may not allow time for a full lesson, and should plan accordingly.

Bring in Nonperishable Food Items

The next phase is to have students bring in nonperishable food items for a period of time, generally two to three weeks in advance. For this reason, teachers will need to announce reminders each week to help students to remember to bring in items the following week. Teachers can even send out postcards or e-mail reminders to students, when applicable.

Ideas for donations include:

  • Canned items (fruits and vegetables, including cranberry sauce)
  • Box foods (such as desserts, shelf meals, and crackers)
  • Juice boxes
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy

Remind students that items cannot be frozen or freshly baked. This can be a good opportunity to ask students (especially younger ones) why these foods are not acceptable during a food drive. These items will go bad before they are handed to a family.

Award Sunday School Classes for Participation in the Food Drive

The Thanksgiving food drive contest can be based on two categories. The first is awarding prizes for those classes who bring in the most food donations. The second is deciding which classes have decorated the best box. There could be a first, second, and third place winner for each category. This way all classes have a chance of winning some type of award for their efforts.

Fairmount Christian Church in Mechanicsville, VA, awards ribbons to all winning Sunday school classes, and gives a treat to the first place winners of each category. This usually consists of donuts and juice given the following week after the contest ends. Of course, there are other great ways to award students, too.

Make Food Baskets and Plan Deliveries

The last step to making this a successful food drive is to make sure the food gets delivered to needy families on time. Sunday school classes may organize this project on their own, or could give the donations to a church-wide effort to make food baskets. Generally, the Social Services department in each city will have the names of needy families in the community, or a church may choose to give the baskets to families within the congregation.

Kids love contests, and this Thanksgiving food drive is a win-win situation all the way around. Kids get awarded for participation, and needy families get a truly satisfying Thanksgiving meal. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” in Matthew 25:40 (NIV). That is the best blessing of all.

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