Canned Food Scavenger Hunt

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As Thanksgiving draws near and we usher in another holiday season, many begin to think of the needs of others. Couple that with the pressure food banks feel during this season, planning an event that helps fulfill the desire to give with the needs of those who are hungry is a great way to live out our faith.

Here are a couple of options to leverage your next scavenger hunt to help those in need in your community.

Option 1

  • First, we break our students into several teams. It is best to have between 5 and 7 per team. Each team has an adult and a vehicle.
  • Teams are given a list of items that has been provided from our food pantry (all items are non-perishable):

Canned Vegetables
Canned Tuna
Boxes and Mac and Cheese
Spaghetti Noddles
Spaghetti Sauce
Small Bags of Rice
Dry Beans
Small Jars of Peanut Butter
Small Jars of Jelly
Cold Cereal

  • Teams are then given an hour and a half to go around town collecting food. We don’t given any parameters as to where the groups can go, just as long as they stay in town. What is fun about this is that teams will often go to homes of friends and families in an effort to collect food; by doing this they get to share the story of serving those in need.
  • We have used 2 different methods for scoring to determine the winning team.
    • The first way is to assign a point value to each item. Our food pantry has determined that they need more of certain items and less of others; we use that to assign the points. So, for example, small jars of peanut butter are worth 10 points, while bags of rice are worth 5. Anything collected that is not on the list, we assign a small point value to (say 2 points).
  • The second way to score is to add up the weight of the contents of items collected, and then divide that number by the number of people on the team.
  • We publish the picture of the winning team, along with the food collected, in our church newsletter and on our Facebook page.


Option 2

A second option, which works well for smaller churches or churches in smaller towns, is to break your group into teams and then send them out with grocery bags to church members or homes in a neighborhood one Sunday, and then on a subsequent Sunday go back and pick these bags up.

Break your group into Teams, giving each Team a designated area to distribute the bags. Include in the bags a note about what you are collecting and where the donated food will go.

When bags are collected and brought back to the church, award points (see Option 1) to determine a winner.

This option also works by teaming up different groups in the church (Women’s groups, men’s groups, Sunday School classes, small groups, etc.) to compete again each other.

Option 3

To help students understand what it means to attempt to eat on a very limited budget, on a given Sunday evening we asked students to each bring $2 to youth group. We broke the students up into teams of 5 to 7 people, and told them to pool their money together to buy a meal that would feed their team.

We dropped the Teams off at a grocery store and told them to use their pooled money to buy food that would feed their team for one meal. The items they purchased where then given to the food pantry.

There are several options to this option, including

  • Instructing teams that they need to plan to feed their team for an entire day;
  • Purchase foods that can be prepared without cooking (as would be the case for many homeless people);
  • Drop the Teams off at a convenience store instead of a larger grocery story. Many people who live in poorer communities only have access to convenience stores as opposed to larger, full-service grocery stores.

Scott has served in student ministry for over 30 years, the past 23 years at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church in Norman, Oklahoma, where he oversees ministries to Kindergarten through 12th grade as the director of student ministries. Having grown up in an incredible and life-changing youth ministry at Pioneer United Methodist Church in Walla Walla, Washington, Scott got his start in student ministry at Simpson United Methodist Church in Pullman, Washington while a student at Washington State University. He will never forget his first official Sunday as a youth director when 2 of the high school students who showed up were older then him! Scott has a passion for missions and leadership develop, and desires to create life-long disciples for Jesus Christ. He and Kristin have been married for 13 years, and welcomed an amazing little girl into the world in May of 2016. You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottMeier