Great Food Volunteering Opportunities Across America

Alex Van Buren
·Food Features Editor

The trickiest of all the New Year’s resolutions is, arguably, volunteering. You know it’s a good call; you’ll help people and you’ll feel good about yourself. It’s a win-win (like going to the gym, but for the soul).

However, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, volunteering has the ring of a Serious Commitment. Who has the time?

Well, you might: some organizations require as little as half an hour on a Saturday afternoon. And if you need a compelling reason to commit, pick a cause dear to your heart—food! Here are a few organizations nationwide that are definitely deserving of your time.

Food Runners, San Francisco, California

This operation has been picking up excess food from restaurants and delivering it—over 15 tons weekly!—to those in need since 1987. You can help out by driving grub around town; Food Runners asks volunteers for a mere hour per week. See the video above for more.

Harvesters, Kansas City, Missouri and Topeka, Kansas

Whether you can give us a few hours several times a year or can give us a few hours every week, we’re happy to have your help,”  declares  the website forHarvesters, a food bank with outposts in Kansas City and Topeka. (A few hours several times a year? Totally doable!) Nearly half the recipients of the donated food are kids, and—adorably—volunteers over the age of six are welcome. So bring along your child or your niece or nephew while you sort canned goods. It’s always good to start ‘em young!

FareStart, Seattle, Washington

The nonprofit FareStart “offers an intensive training program that prepares homeless and disadvantaged men and women for jobs in the food services industry,” securing more than 500 graduates living-wage employment in the restaurant industry annually. What can you do? All sorts of things, including spending an hour weekly helping people write cover letters and resumés.

Second Harvest Food Bank, New Orleans, Louisiana

Part soup kitchen, part food bank, this NOLA institution also has an eye to helping families make more nutritious decisions with every dollar. Those with an interest in health can help teach cooking classes at the operation’s 8,500 square foot commercial kitchen. 

Community Servings, Boston, Massachusetts

Here’s a Beantown operation with a focus close to our hearts: cooking for the ill. Originally begun as an HIV/AIDS-focused organization, Community Servings celebrates its 25th birthday this year and will deliver nearly 400,000 free, home-style meals to 1,300 people living with one of 35 different life-threatening illnesses. This is an especially great volunteer opportunity for those who like to cook, since you can work in Community’s kitchen, preparing dishes for those in need.

City Harvest, New York, NY

As is true of its Bay Area counterpart, Food Runners, City Harvest has an unofficial  “reduce, reuse, recycle” motto. The organization focuses on food “rescues” from restaurants and farmers’ markets, bringing everything from gorgeous eggplants to ruby-hued tomatoes to soup kitchens and homeless shelters around New York City. That’s 46 million pounds of food per year. It’s an enormous operation, but it runs smoothly, and your commitment can be as minor—but substantial—as hauling bags of vegetables for half an hour on a sunny afternoon.

If you really can’t swing the time, don’t worry about it—but consider donating cash, which is always welcome, across the board.