This post was updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2017.
It's hard to think about hunger during the holidays. On Thanksgiving, most of us will be inundated with turkey, potatoes, and pie. The idea of an empty belly seems incongruous to the day itself. But for many families, it's a sober reality. In San Francisco alone, over 150,000 people lack the resources to feed themselves and their families. They're thankful not only for their families, but for the food banks whose tireless employees and volunteers helped put food on their tables. So if you're looking for a way to give back to your community this holiday season or all year, here are some local volunteer opportunities at organizations offering food to those in need. If you know of a great program not listed here, please include it in the comments section.
This is a great place to get started if you're interested in volunteering at a food bank. Bay Area Hunger is a collaboration of seven different food banks around the greater Bay Area and provides information so you can easily find one close to you and find learn different ways to help. They even have a map detailing where each food bank is located. Their site also provides information on donating and upcoming benefits.
The SF-Marin Food Bank is the critical link between food and people. They provide food to over 30,000 families each week through 450+ non-profit partners and will distribute 47 million pounds of food this year to meet an ever-growing need in the community.
How to Volunteer
You can volunteer in San Francisco or Marin. Sign up on their website to help out in the warehouse or with other activities.
How to Donate Food
Use their list of drop-off locations to donate food in San Francisco and Marin, or host a food drive.
Since 1985, the ACCFB relies on donations and volunteers to sustain their busy program. They provide food to 240 nonprofit agencies throughout Alameda County and distributed 25 million meals in 2014 -- with over half of the food consisting of fresh produce.
- Food Sorting -- Help out during the week -- they especially need people on Mondays or Tuesdays -- or on weekends in their warehouse by registering online.
- Be an operator on the Emergency Food Helpline -- operators refer food to more than 3,000 households every month -- or help in the office and with seasonal projects. Bilingual reps are extremely in demand, as are those with technical skills. All individual volunteers must first attend an orientation, which are held each Wednesday. Get more information online or call (510) 635-3663 x 308.
- There is an urgent need for 100+ volunteers on Nov. 18 to support a major county-wide food drive. Shifts are needed in Tri-Valley, Hayward, San Leandro, Oakland/Emeryville and Berkeley areas. Get more information.
- Small food donations can be brought to the food bank Monday-Friday, or use the food drive map to find where drop-off bins are throughout Alameda County. Many of these are at schools, churches, and grocery stores.
- You can also take part in the ACCFB's Virtual Food Drive where every $1 donated purchases $6 in food.
- Consider organizing your own Food Drive at your work, school, church or with your community group. They will supply everything you’ll need. Call (510) 635-3663 ext. 318 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or get more information online.
Glide's mission is to create a radically inclusive, just, and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization. They provide up to 2,400 meals each day, making Glide one of the largest free meal providers in San Francisco. Glide is also the only program in town that provides three nutritious meals 364 days of the year.
- Holiday volunteer opportunities include serving food, toy sorting, and sorting and stacking food for Glide's Grocery Bag Give Away and other events in November and December.
- Glide is also looking for people to participate in their long-term volunteer program to help provide medical, fundraising and other services.
Project Open Hand provides meals to seniors and people living with serious illnesses in San Francisco.
How to Volunteer
Over the holidays, prepare meals on site, sort and fill grocery bag orders, deliver food, and serve meals for seniors at their senior lunch sites.
St. Anthony Foundation has responded to the needs of poor and low-income San Franciscans for the past six decades. They serve daily meals and provide shelter, medical assistance, technology training, and clothes to those in need.
How to Volunteer
Holiday volunteer opportunities range from serving food, helping out in the dining room, and sorting donated clothing to providing skills-based services in the Tenderloin Tech Lab, clinic, and social work center. They offer both regular shifts and special group projects designed for large or small teams.
Meals On Wheels of San Francisco exists to alleviate the food insecurity and loneliness experienced by seniors who want to stay in their own home but cannot shop or prepare meals for themselves.
How to Volunteer
Various volunteer opportunities are available, including being an at-home visitor for seniors who spend much of their days alone, shopping for seniors, helping with small in-home repairs, and delivering food.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties has been providing services to the community since 1974. They are one of the largest food banks in the country, providing food to nearly a quarter of a million people each month. Of those they serve, most are seniors and low-income families with children.