How to Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen on Thanksgiving

By Ainsley Whitley
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While most Americans are sinking their teeth into turkey dinners, cakes and pies, it's easy to forget some people are less fortunate. In 2013, roughly 49 million U.S. households went without food, according to the nonprofit Feeding America. What better time to volunteer at a soup kitchen than Thanksgiving, a time to show gratitude for all that you have? As long as you have the desire to help, it's easy to volunteer and make a difference in someone's life this Thanksgiving.

Locate a Soup Kitchen

The large majority of cities and towns across the United States have at least one soup kitchen. If you live in a large city, you'll likely find more than one. The easiest way to locate a soup kitchen near you is to look online. You also can check your local phone book and contact your local Salvation Army, Rescue Mission or religious institution. These organizations often run soup kitchens or have partnerships with soup kitchens.

Know What to Expect

Soup kitchens typically assign four- to five-hour shifts. Plan on spending that amount of time serving meals. You don't need to have cooking skills. A coordinator will go over the duties and provide instructions. If you have any questions, ask the coordinator. If you're a volunteer server, expect to be standing during your shift.

Think Outside the Box

One of the primary roles of any soup kitchen is serving food. However, there are other ways you can help at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. If the soup kitchen offers food delivery for the holidays, ask if you can help pack and deliver Thanksgiving meals. Most soup kitchens work with food banks. If this is the case, they may need volunteers to pick up food, take inventory or collect donations. Some of these volunteer opportunities may require training.

Go Beyond the Holidays

Soup kitchens are known for holiday events. However, most soup kitchens are a seven-days-a-week operation and often rely on volunteers. This means you don't have to stop at volunteering on the holidays. Any spare time you can volunteer at a soup kitchen makes a difference. Contact a soup kitchen and find out how to volunteer on a regular basis and what other volunteer opportunities it has outside of the holidays.

About the Author

Ainsley Whitley is a contributing writer for various branded properties that together attract more than 280 million readers seeking influential content. Whitley's articles have appeared in various print and online magazines, including "GQ," "Details," "Southern Living" and "Cooking Light."