We get a lot of inquiries about how individuals and groups can start a PWYC grocery store in other cities and communities all around the world. We love your enthusiasm and want to encourage you to feed it forward. Here are some tips and starting points on how to replicate our model.
Do your research. Know everything you can about the food waste problem and the state of food insecurity in your area. Know the legal situation in your province, state, or country about food donation (in Ontario there is the Food Donation Act of 1999, and similar ones in other provinces). Know your local government’s position and action plan on both social issues (food waste and food insecurity).
Work on developing relationships with food producers in your area. Try bakeries, grocery stores and caterers to start. Be friendly and accommodating and make it easy for them to get involved. Have handouts or business cards on hand with details and contact info. Once you have established a relationship, aim for regular daily or weekly pickups. You also need to network with organizations who are willing to accept food, such as shelters, community centers and programs, and other non-profit organizations.
Half the battle is educating individuals and the community at large about food waste and food insecurity. The more presentations, media appearances, school visits, and community outreach you can do, the more success you will have. Do your research about not only the problem, but the solutions, and have materials and talking points prepared. Be passionate and inspiring!
It takes a lot of dedicated people to make this work. You need at least 30 regular, committed volunteers, including some with drivers licenses and some able-bodied. You need at least 5 people at the organizational level to plan, coordinate, and carry responsibility. The more people with specialized skill sets the better, especially since the majority of your team will have full or part time jobs.
Sponsorship and fundraising
You cannot rely only on PWYC donations to fund your operating costs. Gas alone can cost you hundreds of dollars a week to pick up and distribute food. Plan fundraisers and events to help cover your costs. Look for community and government grants and funding options. Involve schools and other community organizations to partner and support you. Seek out in-kind donations and sponsorships from local businesses. The bigger you grow, the larger your operating costs will be.
Consider what you will need to physically furnish a store, even if it’s a temporary location – tables, counters, shelving, refrigerators, bins and baskets. You will need kitchen and catering supplies to cook and package prepared food. You will need access to electronics – computer, printer, phone, email accounts, cloud file storage and collaboration, and most importantly a way to accept non-cash donations (the more options the better: a point of sale system, PayPal account, Square reader, interac e-transfer, Bunz or bitcoin, etc.).
You need one or two vehicles at least the size of a van, SUV, or truck to pick up donated food. You need dry storage, cold storage, and frozen storage, which can be expensive if you have to rent it. You need a few dedicated people to manage email and phone coordination, physical pick up and delivery, storage and rotating stock, and inventory management.
Kitchen space and cooking
Not all of the food you rescue will always be distributed before it is unusable. Feed It Forward’s founder, Chef Jagger Gordon, spends 2-4 days a week in the kitchen with volunteers cooking with rescued food. The prepared meals are then available at the grocery store, handed out on the street and at shelters, and distributed to other community organizations and partners. Having access (ideally free of charge) to an industrial sized kitchen and having skilled chefs and volunteers is essential to ensuring YOU are not throwing out rescued food.
Marketing and social media
Be consistent and be present. Set up social media accounts and work on gathering a following. Have print and electronic marketing materials prepared, including one-pagers, business cards, and a sponsorship package. We recommend having leadership team members with a) marketing and/or business experience, b) graphic design, and c) social media planning and time for consistent execution.
Feed It Forward started as a pop-up operation, then graduated to operating out of a van, then a shipping container, and then finally a bricks and mortar storefront. It’s ok to start small, maybe by partnering with an existing business to share space, or a pop-up model until you are more established. Once you get to a permanent location, you have to ensure your donations are covering the rent and utilities, so don’t get in too deep before you have established a following
You will need a plan on acquiring, maintaining, and contacting your volunteer base. It is recommended to maintain a newsletter or distribution list like MailChimp, and have an easy way for people to sign up for shifts. Make sure you have a liability waiver for volunteers to sign, and at least a basic orientation package that covers health and safety.
A key person on your team will be someone trustworthy and capable of managing incoming donations and outgoing expenses. Record everything.
A note about the Feed It Forward name. Feed It Forward is a registered non-profit and soon to be a registered charitable organization in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. As such, you are not able to use the Feed It Forward name, brand, or logo unless you are officially partnered with us. If you think you have a good handle on all the points listed above and are ready to successfully launch a Feed It Forward location in your community, please reach out to us to have a conversation! We would love to partner with you and provide you with organizational support and guidance. Alternatively, you can start your own non-profit food rescue program under a different name. The process to establish yourself is long and involves a lot of paperwork – it took us about three years to get to that. You will need to be officially registered in order to provide charitable receipts for in-kind and monetary donations.