Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. It is also one of the most popular days of the year to serve in the country’s soup kitchens and food pantries. Anyone who has watched a local news broadcast after an afternoon of turkey (or Tofurky) and football has seen the footage of volunteers spooning out yams and stuffing to the homeless and hungry in our midst.
While this is a great way to serve a group that most certainly needs it, most of the Thanksgiving and Christmas volunteer slots are filled months before the leaves even start turning colors, as Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger noted back in October when he addressed the audience gathered at City New York’s headquarters (where he spoke alongside Shirley Sagawa). Also, these opportunities are more difficult to come by since many soup kitchens are closed for the holiday. So what do you do if you didn’t plan to volunteer far enough in advance?
As the holiday volunteering page on NYCCAH’s website notes, poor people’s needs for food and services do not abate when Thanksgiving (or Christmas) is over. “Hunger is an important issue that needs much help throughout the year, especially in New York City where more than 1.4 million people are food insecure.”
There are ample opportunities to serve on the other days of the year and many of the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens are frequently under-assisted. Through their Volunteer Matching page, you can find the best opportunities for the other 363 days a year. And if you want to get a head start on another federal holiday, you can sign up for NYCCAH’s MLK Day Serve-a-Thon, which will aid a variety of anti-hunger projects including preparing and serving food to the community, repainting food pantries and school cafeterias, and cleaning and reorganizing pantry and kitchen spaces.
So enjoy your Thanksgiving with your friends and family. But before the tryptophan (or its tofu equivalent) starts to lull you into a peaceful, contented sleep, think about the service you’ll do when the holiday ends.