With the holiday season rapidly approaching the idea of giving has been brought to the forefront of our minds. Whether it is to give thanks or gifts, the next following months are filled with the concept of extending our arm to offer something to others. Though, the past almost two years has been a strain on all of us. The pandemic has created situations we, as a society, never imagined. Just the thought of buying presents for our friends and family or cooking a big meal sounds exhausting. Not only do people lack the mental capacity for these activities, but monetary issues have stricken homes and made peoples’ lives way more difficult than they already are. This can create a deeper feeling of emptiness within us. During these months volunteering at a soup kitchen, food bank, and or shelter may be of interest to you. It is a fantastic way to give back to your community and those that are in need of an act of kindness.
However, if you decide to go through with volunteer work you should keep in mind that this should not be solely a holiday activity. In NYC, people from all over are struggling year-round. Dedicating yourself to one organization and committing your time not just around the holidays will help a tremendous amount. For example, N’dea Yancey-Bragg at USA Today, wrote an article about why volunteering at soup kitchens only on Thanksgiving is counterproductive. To sum it up, a lot of organizations can easily feel overwhelmed about the amount of people that show up to help out. It usually takes time and resources in order to train people interested in volunteering. We recommend starting earlier than later to avoid any sort of issues for these already very busy sites.
We have put together a list of possible places you can volunteer at starting over the next few months. Sift through these options and see which one aligns with your interests and what you would be willing to support.
Food Bank for NYC
Over the past 36 years, Food Bank for NYC has made great efforts in order to end hunger in the five boroughs. Through providing around one billion meals for New York City residents in need, they have strived to assist in community survival. Finding themselves as one of the largest food banks in NYC, Food Bank for NYC has been able to help low-income New Yorkers move toward independence in a sustainable way. At the moment, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are not offering any on-site opportunities as a volunteer. However, they offer a plethora of virtual options in which you can participate.
Citymeals on Wheels
Dating back to 1981, Gael Greene – popular NYC food critic, was reading the newspaper and saw that many New York City residents were facing a skyrocketed number in hunger. This was only a few days before Thanksgiving, and she was sad to know many mouths would not be fed on the holiday all about food. As time went on, Citymeals on Wheels was able to come up with a variety of resources in order to provide delicious and nutritious meals to those who need them. You have the option of hand-delivering meals on weekends, putting together meals for holidays, making nonperishable food boxes prior to the holidays due to closures, providing emergency food packages and meals, giving out shelf-stable food for those facing possible malnutrition, delivering meals to local senior citizens, giving companionship to lonely neighbors, creating cards to hand out on the holidays, talking to senior citizens on the phone in order to provide them with company, writing and receiving mail from senior citizens, packaging meals at senior centers, and working on projects to better the initiative of Citymeals on Wheels. You can fill out an application here in order to be a volunteer.
City Harvest focuses more on providing others with the abundance of food in NYC that goes to waste on a day-to-day basis. While people were struggling to eat at the end of the day, a large amount of perfectly good food was being thrown out all over the city. Being the largest food rescue organization, City Harvest has fed over one million New Yorkers and saved around one hundred and eleven million pounds of food that would otherwise be tossed. It’s a big task consider the number of people currently living in New York. Not only does City Harvest do their best to end hunger, but do they educate others on food waste and providing solutions on how to help your community. In order to volunteer, they ask that you work year-round with them. You can take part in an individual volunteer opportunity or do group work. Whatever works best with you.
Rethink Food is very similar to City Harvest in the way that they work with redistributing food waste. They have been around since 2015 and was started by a food industry worker who saw first-hand the amount of food being wasted. To give back to those that are facing food insecurity, Rethink Food collects donated excess food from various restaurants. Through their formed partnership, they have been able to operate full-time. In the height of the pandemic, they released their Rethink Certified Program in which they helped community members that were struggling to eat while also assisting small businesses. As of today, they have distributed more than 2.4 million healthy meals for their community. If this is of interest to you, you can get involved by emailing their team at [email protected] to see what positions are available. Usually, you would be doing something along the lines of food prep and distribution.
The Bowery Mission
The Bowery Mission has been around since the 1870s serving hungry New Yorkers. Their goal is to assist all in need within the New York metro area that deal with poverty, hopelessness, and addiction. This is a religious organization where they center their beliefs around seeking solace in God; however, anyone of any religion is welcome through their doors. The Bowery Mission is always seeking out volunteers considering the size of their organization. It is ESPECIALLY around the holidays where they request people to come and help out because it is their busiest time. You can either donate to their Thanksgiving fund, or apply to be a volunteer.
Carly is a freelance writer with interest in topics pertaining to lifestyle blogging, social justice, and anything to do with film/media. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a degree in English & Literary studies in hopes to write for a large music publication. When she is not writing, you can find her watching movies, cooking her famous Carbonara, and enjoying time outdoors.