5 Top Food Fundraising Ideas for 2021

Turn your next food fundraiser into a big success

It’s unanimous. Everyone loves food. And of course, we can’t do without it. These are 2 powerful reasons why it works so well as a school fundraiser. The average household spends over $7,000 yearly on food according to The Simple Dollar. This equates to about $20 each day per person.

Food is also highly consumable. In fact, it’s hard to think of another product that even rivals the demand, with the exception of water. Unlike items that can be used over and over again, like a school mug, food is constantly on our minds.

The best food fundraising ideas will always serve a dual purpose. Not only should they help meet the financial needs of the group raising the money, but food products must also be able to solve a problem for the buyer.

Think about it. We all seem to be living in crunch time. Our fast-paced society means less time to prepare food from scratch in place of a hot meal that can be prepared almost instantly. Frozen food brochures that offer everything from pizzas to pies help solve that need with microwaveable products. And of course, it has to taste nearly as good as grandma’s homestyle cooking.

Many organizations also take advantage of the tax laws when it comes to food sales. Depending on the state, many products are taxable, even if you’re a nonprofit. But as long as the group is selling non-prepared food, like prepackaged cookie dough, most states won’t require the collection of sales tax. Alternatively, ‘ready to eat’ food served in a restaurant on a plate next to a knife and fork is taxable.

But perhaps what makes food sales so effective is that most of us are impulse buyers. Who can resist a midday snack, especially something inexpensive like a candy bar or beef stick?

According to PTO Today, schools should consider 3 things before deciding on selling food. First and foremost is quality. If people don’t like the taste, they won’t buy from you the next time. Second is timing. Try to avoid potential conflicts with other groups who may be selling a similar product. This will hurt both sales. And third, if your community seems to emphasize healthy eating, you might want to avoid selling foods like candy bars or pies.

Here are the top 5 food fundraising ideas along with the pros and cons of each:

1. Cookie Dough Fundraiser


The cookie dough fundraiser is still going strong and is one of the most popular ways for schools to raise money. Successful brands like Otis Spunkmeyer®, Nestlé Toll House® and Crazy About Cookies top the list of favorites and add instant credibility in the mind of the buyer.

Although available in tubs, the preferred choice these days is pre-sliced pieces that only require that you place the dough on a cookie sheet. Edible dough has caught on strong recently as a very tasty treat that you can eat “raw”. Well, it’s not really raw, but it’s made without eggs and uses heat-treated flour that reduces the presence of microbial pathogens.

Many schools are now selling ‘shelf-stable’ cookie dough. The advantage is that you get the same great taste with more flexible storing after delivery. This product can be stored in a room-temperature environment for several days. Schools no longer have to scramble for that dreaded freezer space for any unclaimed boxes.

Gluten-free cookie dough is also available, although it tends to be more of a niche product with lower than average sales overall.


Cookie dough continues to go up in price, which is a reason that more groups are now selling the smaller 2 lb. tubs for significantly less money.

Because cookie dough is very popular, the chances of running up against another group that’s also selling it is fairly high. Thus, it’s always a good idea to check your area for competing groups. It’s always best if you can be the first fundraiser in your area if possible.

A few groups have attempted to sell healthier alternatives, but these products historically have not sold as well.

2. Candy Bar Fundraising


Chocolate sells. Reese’s, owned by Hershey, was the top selling chocolate candy sold in the United States with about $171 million in 2017. Chocolate bars are hugely popular and they literally sell themselves.

Offered at $1 each, candy bar fundraiser products are extremely affordable and lend themselves extremely well to the impulse purchase.

Boxed chocolate, normally sold out of a brochure, has a higher retail price than candy bars, but groups can make more money off each sold item. Buyers can also choose from a variety of chocolates, such as chocolate covered peanuts and pecan caramel clusters.

And in most cases, unlike direct sale items like candy bars, items found in food brochures can be sold on campus during school hours.


With the enforcement of stricter nutritional guidelines, candy bar sales can no longer take place on campus during school hours.

Selling boxed chocolate is more expensive, plus buyers have to wait for students to deliver their product. This makes it much less of an impulse buy.

Candy bars typically sell for $1.00, which is a convenient price point, but students have to sell a lot more product to make the same profit.

3. Frozen Food Fundraising Ideas


‘Microwave and serve’ meals along with ‘thaw and serve’ desserts make frozen food products a convenient option for buyers. Groups can offer items like cheesecakes, pies, brownies, pizzas, and pretzel dogs. Recognizable name brands include Little Caesars, Otis Spunkmeyer and Cinnabon.

Variety is key as many frozen food brochures offer as many as 75-100 different items. Orders that deliver already sorted by student are a must as groups probably won’t have the time to sort and distribute the merchandise before thawing kicks in. And since individual food items are prepackaged and not ready for immediate consumption, in most cases there’s no tax.


Frozen food must be refrigerated within a certain period of time. The recommended guideline is within 4-6 hours after delivery. This requires extra planning to ensure a smooth distribution of student orders. Unfortunately, having a contingency plan in place for people who don’t pick up their order on delivery day is often overlooked.

4. Food Mixes


Selling food mixes has become popular in recent years. These types of products take the worry out of a delivery because there’s no refrigeration required. Many brochures carry a variety of food mixes that otherwise would not be practical, like Louisiana Gumbo, Texas chili and even garlic biscuit mix.


Many buyers are looking for food that’s ready to eat and doesn’t require any additional preparation steps. Even though food mixes make deliveries easier, they’re not so convenient as you often have to add things like eggs and butter before baking.

5. Snack Food Fundraisers


Snack food is popular as a school fundraiser because it’s convenient and the items are reasonably priced. We all need that quick pick-me-up to help fuel our fast paced lifestyles. Buyers usually have a good selection to choose from.

Groups also do well selling beef jerky and popcorn fundraiser products. There are also some added health benefits to many snack foods such as high protein and low sugar. Most popcorn is also gluten free.


Since food allergies are a concern for many, snacks that contain nuts are off the table. It’s always a good idea to disclose the product ingredients to potential buyers so they can be informed prior to making a purchase.