One Million Pounds of Food
The pandemic has brought changes to Elkdom, both at the local Lodge level and at the Elks National Foundation. Active community projects weren’t possible at the height of the pandemic, so the Community Investments Program adjusted grant guidelines to make meeting local needs safer for Lodges.

Since April 2020, the CIP has encouraged Lodges to donate Gratitude, Beacon and Spotlight Grants to organizations providing pandemic relief when an active project isn't possible. Throughout the pandemic, Lodges have continued to use CIP grants to support organizations that directly meet needs in communities, including food pantries, domestic violence shelters, and organizations providing shelter and support services for people experiencing homelessness.

Some Lodges took donations to new heights and developed partnerships with the organizations that go beyond just funding.

The Lodge’s relationship with the Foodbank stretches back to the beginning of the pandemic. In the 2020-21 and 2021-22 grant years, Santa Maria, Calif., Lodge No. 1538 donated its $2,500 Gratitude Grant to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

In April 2020, less than a month into the pandemic, the Foodbank saw such an increase in food insecurity that additional distribution sites became necessary. The organization reached out to the Santa Maria Lodge, hoping its large parking lot could be used as a drive-thru distribution location.

“The Lodge was closed to all inside activities,” says Lodge Secretary Phil Daighton. “But a small contingent of great Elks volunteers stepped up to help with the Foodbank.”

The new partnership proved to be a boon for both organizations, and the community. A recurring drive-thru event began, with nearly 30 Elks and community members packing about 600 bags of food and distributing them to hundreds of cars each week.

“At the beginning of the pandemic the community was in greater need for food as people were laid off or furloughed from their jobs,” Daighton says. “In the first few months we were running 400-plus cars through each week, and the line of cars went double-file throughout our facility and out onto the street for [almost] a mile.”

These weekly distributions continued until August 2021, when the Lodge reopened for indoor activities. But that was not the end of the drive-thru events: the Santa Maria Elks will continue hosting distributions on the last Thursday of each month.

“We have been touched so much by the community’s appreciation to the Elks,” Daighton says. “I believe this will be a long working relationship between our two organizations.”

By the end of this September, the Lodge had packed roughly 43,000 bags of food, weighing more than a million pounds.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is part of Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks. To find an affiliated food bank in your Lodge’s area, check out Feeding America’s website.

For more information on our available grants and their guidelines, check out our Grant Toolkits. If you have any questions about grant projects, the CIP can be reached at 773/755-4730 or

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