How to volunteer at a food pantry during the holidays

November 20, 2019
by Paul Morello

Want to roll up your sleeves before the New Year and do some volunteering with your family but you’re not sure what to do or where to start? We’ve got you covered! Try volunteering at a food bank or local food program. It’s a great way to make an impact as a family, have a lot of fun and start a new tradition. We’ve got a few easy tips to help you set up your family volunteer experience. 


1. Contact your local food bank to find food programs that need volunteers 

Don’t know if there are food programs in your neighborhood to volunteer at before the New Year? Your local food bank probably will. They should be able to tell you which local food pantries and food programs need volunteers. Once you know who to contact, give them a call! 

2. Find the best time for your family 

At the end of the year, there are usually more volunteer opportunities to distribute food or serve meals to families in need. Food programs operate in the morning, afternoon and evening and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a time that fits your family’s schedule. And, if one program’s schedule doesn’t work for you, try getting in touch with another food program in your area. 

3. Great! I’m signed up to volunteer at a food pantry. What will my family actually do? 

Every volunteer experience at a food program is different, but you’ll probably be doing one of a few things: 

  • Distributing food to clients: That could mean handing out produce or canned goods as clients walk through, or individually helping clients put food into their bags or carts. 
  • Serving a holiday meal: If you’re volunteering at a hot meal program, you might be serving up sandwiches, soup, salad, turkey, stuffing, dessert and more. Get ready to see lots of thankful faces!
  • Assembling food donations: Some food pantries pre-bag food for clients. You might be filling bags with groceries such as canned food, meat and produce. Those bags will then be given to clients during the distribution.
  • Delivering food to those in need: Some specialized programs recruit volunteers to deliver boxes of food to those who can’t make it to pantries. Consider yourself a bringer of hope and joy during the holidays for people struggling with hunger. 
  • Anything else! Restocking shelves, helping clients carry bags or even sweeping – volunteers make pantries run smoothly. 


4. Loved your experience? Come back next holiday season…or in a few months 

Make volunteering at a food program during the holidays your tradition! And, remember that the need doesn’t end when the holidays are over. Your local pantry needs volunteers throughout the year, so don’t be shy and volunteer year-round! Sign Feeding America’s volunteer pledge to get started, and then don’t wait to book your next volunteer time!   


5. Missed out on volunteering this year? You can always give. 

From family get-together to school sing-alongs, time is tight during the holidays. If you can’t fit in volunteering, you can still make an impact on hunger! Make a gift now and your support will help ensure those struggling with hunger across the country will start the year with the food they need to thrive.