Many people have made it a holiday tradition to help serve a meal to the homeless or hungry. To aid you in figuring out how to volunteer at a soup kitchen during the holiday season, check our tips below.
A quick history
* A soup kitchen is a place where homeless and hungry people can go to get a free hot meal.
* The idea of a soup kitchen originated in the U.S. during the Great Depression in the 1930’s.
* Originally soup kitchens gave out soup because it is inexpensive to make and fills people up quickly – today, soup kitchens serve other kinds of food in addition to soup.
* Soup kitchens usually rely on volunteer organizations, like churches or community groups, to complete their staff.
So how do I volunteer at one?
* Try searching Do Domething's volunteer database. You can do a quick online search of “Soup Kitchen + Your Town Name" or check your local yellow pages to find a soup kitchen in your area.
* Then, contact the soup kitchen to see what THEY need.
* Keep in mind that soup kitchens often get a lot of volunteers around the holidays, so if they say they have enough, ask what else you can do to help.
* If you can't find a shelter, try a retirement home. Often times, families can't make it to their loved ones.
What should I expect when I get there?
* Most soup kitchens have four or five hour shifts daily volunteer shifts.
* For some volunteer jobs, like delivering food to homebound people, you may need to undergo a training session – for others, like serving food, you can start right away.
* Soup kitchens need help in lots of ways, other than just serving food – some may ask you to help prepare food, pick up donations, take inventory of food, set up tables, and clean up, so be ready to help however possible.
* The best way to prepare yourself beforehand is be educated about the issues that matter most to the homeless and hungry in your area.
What else should I know?
* Some soup kitchens have a Food Pantry too, so they can give away non-perishable goods to the hungry – see if you can collect donations for your local food pantry at your school this holiday season. [Be a part of the Tackle Hunger campaign and tips on how to have to a collection drive.] A great way to do this is to ask students and parent to bring one non-perishable item to holiday assemblies, concerts or dances. Place a box at the door where they can drop off their donation.
* Remember, soup kitchens and food pantries need help year-round, and especially throughout the cold winter months – make it a monthly or weekly habit to volunteer for a day! Take your friends and family to make it a fun event.