How to Volunteer to Feed the Homeless

by Kathy Adams
Soup kitchens rely on volunteer help.

Volunteering is one way to turn something you have -- time -- into a means to help feed the homeless. Organizations that offer free meals for the underprivileged and homeless exist in most urban and some suburban or rural areas; ask local social service organizations for a list of meal programs in your area if you're unable to find them on your own.

Serve at a Soup Kitchen

Visit or **call a local soup kitchen** or a nonprofit organization that offers meals for the homeless on a regular basis, telling a manager of your desire to volunteer. If you have cooking skills and are consistently available, you may be asked to help prepare meals. If you wish to help only once or occasionally, you may be asked to help serve food. Sorting or picking up donations, if you are able to help on a regular basis, may also be options.

Pitch In at Your Local Food Bank

Food banks and food pantry programs provide food for the homeless and underprivileged in other ways: Food banks distribute food to organizations that serve free meals, including homeless shelters, while food pantry programs package foods to hand out free to those in need. Such organizations rely on volunteers to help sort, group and arrange donated foods scheduled to go out for deliveries and often need drivers or individuals to drop off sorted food at various locations on a regular basis. **Speak with a volunteer coordinator at a regional food bank** to find out how you can best be of service.

Support on the Streets

Serving the homeless outdoors -- where many of them are -- is a way to help feed those in need during times when they cannot get a hot meal at a soup kitchen or long-term shelter. Offer to help an existing group such as Hashtag Lunchbag, which prepares sandwiches and bagged meals for the homeless, or package sandwiches or healthy snacks yourself, with the help of a few friends, distributing the goods to the homeless in areas they frequent. **Read up on local laws** regarding feeding the homeless out on the streets; some cities welcome the act, while others may not allow it.

Help During Holidays

Some community- or faith-based organizations host an annual holiday meal for the homeless or anyone in need, typically on holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas. Since the meals may feed hundreds or even thousands during the course of the day, the groups rely on plenty of volunteers for help. The downside to volunteering for a holiday meal is that many others also volunteer only around such holidays, resulting in more helpers than there is work for them to do. **If you plan to help such a cause during a holiday season, call a few weeks in advance** to see if they could use your help preparing for the big day during the week leading up to the meal. They may also offer other opportunities for you to help their greater mission to feed the homeless.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.

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