How-To Do A Mobile Pantry -

Mobile Pantry

How-To Hold A Mobile Pantry

Mid-South Food Bank Covid-19 Response

Mobile Pantry Guide

Mid-South Food Bank's Mobile Pantry is a method of direct client distribution in an organized format managed by the Food Bank in partnership with an Agency that acts as the host site.  The Mobile Pantry utilizes refrigerated vehicles to provide significant quantities of food including fresh produce and frozen meat. 

Covid-19 Response Mobile Pantry: How It Works  Watch the Mobile Pantry Guide Video

Host Site: Selected Mid-South Food Bank partner agencies, other non-profit organizations or churches ("Agencies") agree to serve as Mobile Pantry host sites. The Agencies and Mid-South Food Bank promote the Mobile Pantry to existing clients (in the case of partner agencies) and the community as a special distribution of wholesome food free of charge. Basic data from all clients is collected either during a pre-registration or onsite during the food distribution. Requirements for being a host site include a large parking lot; ideally one that allows cars to be off the street as much as possible and has a separate entrance and exit, 10-20 volunteers, the ability to make photocopies of the Eligibility Form, tables that can be set up outside. Mid-South Food Bank highly recommends representatives from a new host site visit a Mobile Pantry distribution to see how it works.  This will help will establishing traffic flow at your site at least 24 hours in advance.  The list is at  Announce your mobile pantry on social media, neighborhood flyers/posters, church bulletins and other community publications

Volunteers: Agencies are responsible for volunteer recruitment. A Mobile Pantry cannot take place without a guarantee of adequate, reliable volunteers.  A minimum of 10 is required; 20 is better. Volunteers must be age 16 and older.  The food distribution takes place outside, rain or shine, so dress accordingly.  Mid-South Food Bank's volunteer services department can assist in volunteer recruitment and if there are students needing proof of service hours. Volunteers should plan to be on site one hour before the distribution is scheduled to begin for setup and to stay one hour afterward for cleanup. Gloves will be provided as available. It is vital volunteers follow social distancing and other safety protocols, even if it means the distribution take a little longer.

Registration:  Agencies will be sent/given the Client Eligibility Form (available in Spanish) and should make copies based on the number of households (usually 300-500) to be served, plus extras. At the distribution, one or more volunteers hand out the Form for each household.  All household representatives must show a valid ID showing their address or a document, such as utility bill, showing address. No more than two households per vehicle allowed. Forms will be collected onsite at the distribution.  Note to Food Bank Partner Agencies: information should be entered into Pantry Trak no later than the 5th of the following month. 

Pre-Registration:  All food distributions must be made available to the public; however, an Agency may require ONLINE client pre-registration in order to restrict the number of households served because of the Agency's available space or other considerations.  The link to the pre-registration form must be submitted to the Food Bank at least one week prior to the distribution date to be post on the Food Bank website. We discourage in-person pre-registration because of Covid-19 distancing guidelines.

Data collected on the Eligibility Form is not to be shared with anyone outside of the Food Bank or its established partner agency network.  It is used only to track the demographics for data used in research, grant funding and other informational resources.

Distribution Day: Mid-South Food Bank loads the refrigerated Mobile Pantry truck with fresh produce, frozen meat and other items, based on availability.  Gloves and bags for the food will be on the truck.  The truck arrives an hour before the scheduled distribution time.  The truck driver will lower the gate and unload the food, which is on pallets and shrink-wrapped. It will be set up so that food stations for each type of product can be established six feet apart. The driver or other Food Bank staff will give the person in charge of the distribution an invoice (ignore costs-the distributions are at no cost to host sites) to be used to determine how much food each household will receive.  See below under Bagging.

Setup: Agencies should have 10-12 tables set up to make it easier for food to be pre-bagged and ready to go.  If there are not enough tables, other available surfaces that are clean can be used.  As pallets are cleared, they can be used.  For food safety reasons, BOXES OR BAGS OF FOOD SHOULD NEVER BE ON THE GROUND!   Each household will receive 40-50 pounds of food.

Bagging: Volunteers bag each product, unless it is being given away as a single large item.  The amount of food given to each family is determined by the invoice.  For example, if the distribution is for 500 families and you received 84 cases of green beans with 24 cans per case, you multiply 84 x 24 = 2,100 cans, and divide by 500 (= 4.2).  Each household receives 4 cans of green beans.  Repeat this process for each item on the invoice to determine how many items volunteers should bag for each household.  Some items are calculated by weight.  For example, 7,500 pounds of meat for 500 households, 7,500 divided by 500 = 15 pounds per family.  Volunteers must check the weight on the packages of meat and ensure each household receives approximately the number of pounds determined, which may include one large pack or several smaller ones. 

Traffic Control and Eligibility Forms: Clients will begin to line up for the Mobile Pantry ahead of time.  Sometimes hours ahead of time.  At least one or two volunteers should be on Traffic Control and handing out/collecting Eligibility Forms.  Clients must remain in their cars to receive food.  We do NOT recommend starting early because you may run out of food so early you are forced to turn many people away who came closer to the published time.  HINT: writing the number of households in the vehicle on the windshield with a grease or chalk pen helps the volunteers know how much food to put in the vehicle.

Distribution Begins/Drive-Thru: Mobile Pantry distributions take place with people driving through staged food stations and volunteers placing food bags or boxes in the back seat or the trunk of their vehicle.  Do not hand food directly to clients.  At the present time, every household receives the same amount of food, regardless of the number of family members. Utilizing empty boxes from the unpacked product to load vehicles means less cleanup. 

As clients drive through, volunteers should continue to bag food and keep the area clean and free of cardboard and plastic wrap, which can pose hazards for those engaged in placing food in cars. If there are volunteers who qualify as clients, they can line up in their vehicles to receive food after they have helped with the set-up.  No volunteer is allowed to take food off the line. In case of walk-ups, direct them to where they can enter their zip code to receive a list of nearby food pantries with addresses and phone numbers.

Cleanup: Designate volunteers specifically for cleanup.  All cardboard, plastic and other trash should be disposed of by the Agency.  Pallets should be stacked and left outside for the Food Bank to pick up.  Send pictures of the distribution to for our social media and newsletter 

Rules: Please abide by the following rules.  They are in keeping with the Mission of Mid-South Food Bank or are basic rules of food safety we must adhere to.    

  • Exchanging donated food or other products for money, property, or services, or removal of food for private use is strictly prohibited.  All food must be distributed to registered clients the day of the distribution, free of charge. 
  • All food items must be distributed on a first come, first served bases.  No stockpiling or reserving product is allowed. Clients may not choose specific food. They may refuse certain food items for health or allergy reasons. 
  • All food must remain at least 6 inches off the ground at all times.  No exceptions.  Utilizing crates or boxes bottom side up is acceptable.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Lakeisha Edwards, Director, Agency Partnerships & Programs, 901.485.1700.

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