April 25, 2015
by Alexandra Donaldson

“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our time is precious to us, but it is also precious to others. Each month, 2 million volunteers dedicate more than 8 million hours of time to food programs across the Feeding America network. This means that millions of individuals donate time to the well-being of their neighbors and to make the world a little bit better than it was the day before.

From far away, it’s easy to recognize that volunteers keep things functioning. In fact, half of Feeding America agencies (51%) are operated exclusively by volunteers (i.e. have no paid staff). From the eyes of a volunteer, however, it’s clear that helping with these needs not only makes a difference in the lives of others, but in their own as well.

When I was in fifth grade, I had my first true encounter with hunger. For years, each holiday, my family dropped off a bag of food the morning before for those who were unable to provide food for themselves. When I was younger, walking up to the door with my parents was the biggest task and smiling as we passed it along was as much as I participated. However, in fifth grade, things changed. I carried the brown supermarket bag, filled with donated odds and ends, and marched up to the door of a small, one-story house. Before I could even prepare myself, the door swung open, and a little girl my age at the time stared at me. She smiled. I realized I was looking into the eyes of someone my age facing food insecurity. She was just like me – if I would have seen her on the street I would not have thought that her family was struggling to feed her. But they were. I tried to grasp the concept but didn’t seem real.

Flash forward 15 years, and I’m once again faced with reality of food insecurity. I was volunteering at a local agency, helping community members pick out food to feed their families. My dedicated volunteer “spot” was behind a table with a young man to my left and an older, well-versed volunteer on my left. A few hours later we started to clean up and then both individuals began walking through the line. The same people who had been volunteering with me were also in need of help. No words were spoken, except that “it was the least that I could do.” More than half (54%) of Feeding America program volunteers are adults, while one in three (38%) are seniors and 7% are children – and sometimes, individuals stand on both sides: as volunteers who served and people facing hunger who are served.

Through my time at Feeding America, I’ve realized that volunteers play a critical role in helping us feed more people. At 2 million strong, volunteers enable feeding programs across the United States to function. And personally, volunteering and hearing about dedicated volunteers inspires me and reminds me why I do the work I do. From the 6,000 data collectors who volunteered to carry out Feeding America’s largest research study – Hunger in America 2014 – and the millions of volunteers who help operate Feeding America member food banks each day, it’s easy to see that solving and fighting hunger could not be done without people who donate their time to their community – and the greater good.

For more information on how you can volunteer, find your local food bank. Working together we can solve hunger.

*Alexandra Donaldson is the executive assistant, communications, at Feeding America.

Tags: Fighting Hunger in Action , Volunteer

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