Volunteer Opportunities to Help Reduce Food Insecurity

41

Learn how to fight hunger in your community with these top 5 volunteer opportunities to help reduce food insecurity.

You can do a lot to help reduce food insecurity in your community. After all, access to a healthy, affordable food supply, based on your own food traditions and culture, is a basic human right. Yet so many individuals in the U.S. do not have access to a steady supply of food to meet their needs, due to numerous reasons, including food deserts, income, and availability. In 2021, 10.2% of U.S. households were food insecure. And since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of people facing food insecurity has increased, a change from previously declining rates. Learn more about food insecurity here.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make a difference in your community, from volunteering at food banks, food kitchens, extension agencies, and local farms to starting your very own community garden.

What is your community? Community is a term that describes unity among a group of individuals. Members of a community may be united by geographical location, experiences, or common interests. A community can describe a college campus and a city filled with people from all walks of life. Regardless of who makes up your community, one thing is for certain. Communities work best when everyone looks out for each other.

How can you make a difference in food security in your community? Here are 5 volunteer opportunities to consider in your community.

Top 5 Volunteer Opportunities to Fight Food Insecurity in Your Community

1. Food Banks

Food Banks are non-profit organizations that provide food to local food pantries, food kitchens, and shelters. In the United States, the assistance food banks receive from volunteers is extremely valuable. Once food has been dispatched from a food bank, it may end up at a food pantry. Food pantries directly interact with local communities to provide them with perishable foods, non-perishable foods, and personal hygiene products.

How do I get involved?

Volunteer your time! Finding a local food bank to volunteer for can be done in just a few clicks with Feeding America’s food bank locator. If you work for a company that makes or distributes food, you can also get involved by donating perishable and non-perishable food and grocery items. Looking for more ways to get involved? Check out Feeding America for more ways to make a difference in your community.

2. Food Kitchens

Food kitchens, also known as soup kitchens, are facilities that provide freshly prepared meals to members of their community at no cost. Meals, available for pick-up, delivery, or enjoyment in a communal dining room, are offered by food kitchens throughout the week during designated times. Food kitchens serve anyone who has difficulty preparing or accessing food, no questions asked. The goal of a food kitchen is to ensure no member of the community goes without food or companionship.

How do I get involved?

The best way to get involved with your local food kitchen is to donate supplies and volunteer your time in the kitchen. Kitchen volunteers help prepare and serve meals, and often help with cleaning the dining area after guests have left. Some food kitchens offer Meals on Wheels and need volunteers to deliver meals to homebound members of their community. Third party websites for locating food kitchens are helpful, but not comprehensive. Another way to locate your local food kitchen is to search “food kitchen”, then your location. (e.g., food kitchen Burlington, VT).

3. Extension Agencies

Extension agencies are local organizations that are associated with counties, colleges, and universities, which assist with community development in rural and urban areas. The goal of an extension agency is to provide agricultural resources to consumers, families, and farmers, thereby improving the overall quality of life for everyone in the community.

How do I get involved?

Extension agencies serve communities by offering educational resources and volunteer opportunities in areas such as gardening, health and nutrition, natural resources, and sustainability. Volunteer programs offered by extension agencies provide community members with the knowledge and skills they need to educate others and promote sustainable agricultural practices. You can locate your local extension agency and other useful agricultural resources using the college directory provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

4. Farms

Volunteering on local farms is a great way to nurture your green thumb and earn some locally grown produce. Some local farms even practice community supported agriculture (CSA) where community members get involved in local food production by purchasing a share of farmland. CSA is a great way to engage with your local food system and receive seasonal produce without worrying about the daily upkeep of farming.

How do I get involved?

Next time you shop your local farmers market, ask farmers if they are currently accepting volunteers. Small, locally owned farms often accept volunteers and provide them with fresh fruits and vegetables for their hard work. The internet is a wonderful resource, but sometimes the best way to learn about local opportunities is to go out and speak directly with other members of your community.

5. Start a Community Garden

Community gardens, like CSAs, give community members the opportunity to get involved in local food production. The process of starting a community garden is lengthier than joining a CSA but just as rewarding. Community gardens serve their communities by offering a personal connection to the environment and fresh, locally grown, and owned produce.

How do I get involved?

The USDA, local extension services, and the American Community Gardening Association offer plenty of resources for anyone looking to start a community garden. Don’t be intimidated by the breadth of information available to you, this is the perfect time to collaborate with members of your community! The first step is to talk to your neighbors, see if there’s a need for a community garden, and discuss what type of garden will meet the needs of your community.

Written by Cara Joseph, dietetic intern with Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

References:

Feeding America. (n.d.) Corporate food donations. Retrieved from: https://www.feedingamerica.org/ways-to-give/corporate-and-foundations/product-partner

Feeding America. (n.d.). Food bank network. Retrieved from: https://www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/food-bank-network

Feeding America. (n.d.) The impact of coronavirus on food insecurity. Retrieved from: https://www.feedingamerica.org/research/coronavirus-hunger-research

National Agricultural Library (n.d.) Community gardening. Retrieved from: https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/afsic/community-gardening

National Agricultural Library. (n.d.) Community Supported Agriculture. Retrieved from: https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/afsic/community-supported-agriculture

National Institute of Food and Agriculture. (n.d.). Extension. Retrieved from: https://www.nifa.usda.gov/about-nifa/how-we-work/extension

Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Materials Program. (n.d.) Community gardens. Retrieved from: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/plantmaterials/technical/publications/?cid=stelprdb1044310

Evesfit

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Evesfit.
Publisher: Sharon Palmer