CUESA hosts the Ferry Building Farmers Market (Amanda Lynn Photography)
This article was originally published on Jan. 7, 2018 and was updated Jan. 6, 2020.
The New Year is often a time for food resolutions, like cooking at home more or eating less meat. You can also channel that energy into your community by volunteering your time and talents to support the good food movement. The Bay Area is filled with hard-working organizations that rely on volunteers to alleviate hunger, prevent food waste, and empower people to take their health into their own hands.
Whether you’re getting your hands dirty in the soil, sharing cooking knowledge, or delivering meals to people in need, you can make a difference, gain new skills, and make friends who also have a passion for good food as a volunteer. Here are a dozen Bay Area organizations that rely on volunteers to advance food justice and transform our food system for the better.
CUESA offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities in San Francisco and Oakland to support our local farmers and provide healthy food education, such as assisting customers at the Ferry Plaza and Jack London Square Farmers Markets, teaching kids to cook, doing food prep for free cooking demos, or pitching in at farm tours and fundraising events. Learn more at CUESA’s volunteer orientation on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Learn more and RSVP.
18 Reasons, the nonprofit arm of the Bi-Rite family of businesses, partners with the national organization Cooking Matters to offer cooking and nutrition classes for low-income communities around the Bay Area. There are opportunities to volunteer both at their 18th Street public classes and events, as well as through Cooking Matters as a volunteer chef, nutritionist, or class assistant. Learn more.
Leah’s Pantry offers nutrition and cooking workshops to catalyze healthy food choices among low-income individuals and families. As a volunteer, you can support these programs by chopping veggies for meals or leading group discussions at their Food Smarts classes. Learn more.
Resolved to prevent food waste in 2018? Food Runners volunteers pick up excess perishable food from restaurants, caterers, cafeterias, hotels, and other businesses (including the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market) and deliver it to local shelters and food programs to feed the hungry. Volunteers help make over 10,000 meals possible in San Francisco each week. Learn more.
Based in the East Bay, Food Shift also does food recovery to reduce food waste, feed the hungry, and create jobs. The Food Shift kitchen trains and employs residents of the Alameda Point Collaborative, a housing community for previously homeless individuals. The kitchen needs culinary volunteers to help with food prep. Learn more.
Food banks rely on volunteers to get tons of donated food to people in need. Volunteers can help with food pickups, sorting produce and bulk foods, creating grocery boxes for seniors in need, and working directly with the community to offer nutrition education and outreach through programs like CalFresh. Learn more about opportunities in San Francisco, Marin,and Alameda counties.
Project Open Hand relies on volunteers to distribute groceries and to prepare, package, deliver and serve made-with-love meals to sick and elderly individuals in San Francisco and Alameda counties. Learn more.
Got a green thumb—or want to grow one in the New Year? Urban farming is alive and well in San Francisco at Alemany Farm, which cultivates food security, ecological knowledge, and environmental justice at a 3.5-acre plot south of Bernal Heights. The largest urban farm in San Francisco, Alemany Farm offers volunteer work days for urban dwellers young and old regardless of experience. Learn more or join their winter fruit tree pruning workshop on Jan. 13.
Garden for the Environment, an education and demonstration garden in the Inner Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, also needs drop-in garden volunteers and educational volunteers to help with tasks like composting, planting seeds, pruning, weeding, and tending to vegetable beds. Learn more.
With a mission to empower West Oakland residents to meet basic needs for healthy fresh food through urban farms and community gardens, City Slicker welcomes drop-in garden volunteers for ongoing field work, as well as volunteer garden mentors. Volunteering is on winter break until Feb. 1 at the West Oakland Farm Park, but you can learn more about how to get involved here.
Acta Non Verba supports the East Oakland community by creating safe, creative outdoor spaces for children, youth, and families. At the Youth Urban Farm Project, all the produce is planted, harvested, and sold by kids, who save the proceeds from their work. Acta Non Verba is looking for volunteer backyard farmers and gardeners who want to share their knowledge, as well as administrative support. Learn more.
Planting Justice promotes food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing for people impacted by social inequalities through edible permaculture gardens, school programs, and offerings green jobs for men transitioning from prison into the food justice movement. Support these programs and get orchard experience by volunteering at their five-acre food forest in El Sobrante (just north of Richmond). Learn more.