Your food pantry just received a wide variety of in-kind (non-monetary) donations.  Great! Now all you need to do is organize it, value it and distribute it! Sounds simple, right?

Not so fast.

Inventory management is a big challenge for food pantries of all sizes. There is much to consider to maximize the benefits available to the recipients of your program:

Tracking what has been donated – quantity, type and value of food donated can vary greatly and not knowing what is on hand can lead to overstocking, understocking and food waste due to expired items.

Valuing variable donations – assigning a value to diverse inventory can be time consuming and complex.

Planning to meet varying levels of demand – without proper planning, a food pantry can experience food shortages, food waste, increased operational costs and a loss of donor confidence in your organization.

The good news is that there are tools available to assist with these challenges. YPTC recommends organizations take the following steps to manage their donated inventory:

  1. Leverage technology solutions, such as inventory management software, to aid in tracking inventory on hand.
  2. Adopt an industry-standard method of valuing food. One such method is using the wholesale price per pound of food, as published by Feeding America. Donated food is weighed when it comes in and the weight is multiplied by the average wholesale value of one pound of donated product.
  3. Develop a written policy to define eligible donations and how they will be tracked, valued and recorded. This policy will clearly define to volunteers and donors your inventory management practices.
  4. Utilize budgeting and forecasting models to aid in planning inventory stores to meet demand. These models play a role in allowing a food-relief organization to adjust to environmental changes quickly (pandemics, climate disasters, inflation, etc.).
  5. Identify and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess inventory practices and identify opportunities for improvement. Examples of some such metrics include inventory turnover rate and average days in inventory.

Looking for support to help wrangle inventory for your food pantry? The seasoned accounting professionals in YPTC’s Food Insecurity Specialization are here to help you through all areas of inventory management. Contact us at to learn more.