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Food Charities volunteer opportunites?

  • j

My company has gifted me with a paid week off to do something out of the norm. There are no restrictions just a suggestion I try to not to use the time as regular vacation, preferably do something that would help me grow as a person.

My thought was to somehow combine this with my love of food, learning about new places and giving back. I was hoping to find something similar to Habitat for Humanity. Somewhere where I could go away for a week and volunteer. I'd pay all my own expenses.

Anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks.

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  1. There are food banks and food kitchens in most communities. Or you could do as a co-worker does: she and her sisters prepare a ton of food once a week, drive out to areas where homeless are known to congregate, and serve until all the food is gone.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ricepad

      I was looking for a more immersive experience out of my normal routine. Going down to my local charity doesn't do that. That's why I was wondering about a habitat for humanity type experience but food oriented

      1. re: Jase

        I understand now what you're looking for, but just so you know, the vast majority of Habitat for Humanity volunteers are locals, working in their own communities.

    2. not sure if this fits your need exactly...contact your local Ronald McDonald House if you have one. They have many needs in the kitchen, providing meals, snacks, processing food donations, organizing the pantry, etc. It wouldn't be a 24x7 kind of assignment, but maybe there's something there for you. It's a heart warming place and there's very little "McDonalds" there, at least at the one I volunteer at. Well, there is Ronald, but not the rest of the corporate stuff. (I guess I'm saying don't rule it out just because of micky-dee!)

      1 Reply
      1. re: nojunk

        Thanks I didn't even think about that. I respect what they do a lot

      2. Do consider local community gardens (some might be church/religious tied-in). They might appreciate a week of physical help during early spring cleanup/prep, or help with market-garden sales in late spring/summer, or general education efforts (don't know if your week off is flexibly-scheduled).

        1. http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/...

          Are you familiar with the site Volunteer Match? They can help you narrow your search very quickly.

          1 Reply
          1. re: HillJ

            Thanks I will explore that link. I have tried looking at something like that before I think. But always helpful to have more sources.

          2. What a wonderful gift! And what an amazing thing for a company to do.

            ECHO is an interesting place. They have test gardens of tropical and subtropical food plants and a big focus on appropriate technology. They are religious based but don't push that aspect (as reported from friends who have visited).

            From their website:
            "Our purpose is to help those who are teaching farmers around the world know how to be more effective in producing enough to meet the needs of their families and their communities. "

            They do accept volunteers. Being Florida based I suspect they are used to volunteers who are vacationing or who are seasonal residents.


            2 Replies
            1. re: meatn3

              Thanks that does look interesting.

              I am very lucky to be given this opportunity by my company. They are very supportive of charitable efforts and community service. They put their money where there mouth is. Flexible time when possible, matching donations, high level support for projects, etc. they even have a budget set aside for ad hoc causes. The employee just has to present a compelling argument on how the cause will impact society and the community to get some of the budget.

              1. re: Jase

                Please try to update about what you eventually choose to do. I find this idea very inspiring!

            2. I too hope you report back about what you do. I also would like to know something about your employer. I am not looking for specifics that will identify your employer, just things such as what sector, number of emoloyees,and what kind of ownership.

              4 Replies
              1. re: John E.

                Just a thought on your logistics.
                You have, I assume one work week and two weekends on either side. That's 11 days.
                If you plan to travel any distance it would be on those 'shoulder' days.
                Leave on say a Sat. You may arrive on the Sun. to find everyone is at home.
                Monday to get shown around and 'trained' maybe? That leaves 4 actual days volunteering. Not many from the 11 days available.
                My point is if you can volunteer locally you may be able to spend more time actually accomplishing your goal.
                Then there's the 'carbon footprint' issue.
                Maybe you can find something locally that you can have an ongoing association.
                Please let us know how things turned out.

                1. re: Puffin3

                  My goal is to have an immersive experience, looks like I wasn't very clear in my original post as people keep suggesting local opportunities.

                  Sleeping in my own bed, going to a local charity and volunteering a few hours is not really breaking the routine that much and kind of against the spirit of the week break. I was looking to get away completely. There's been some interesting suggestions. I may not be able to find a food oriented one after all and may just go with a general volunteer mission type.

                  1. re: Jase

                    My husband and I have taken volunteer vacations 3 times and all on our own dime. These trips took about two months of pre planning, training at both the local chapter and first days of arrival. Jase, if you have that kind of time allowance through work then visit the volunteer vacation opportunities:

                    1. re: Jase

                      I think the idea of traveling to pursue this is valid. I find being away from my personal space and routines helps me explore new ideas.

                      My thoughts keep returning to your quest. I'm keeping my eye out for ideas!

                2. Serve the homeless at a shelter.

                  1. How about this?

                    - Donate your week's worth of pay to a local food bank or shelter.

                    - Then feed yourself based on the weekly food allowance of the median SNAP (or food stamp) recipient in your region.

                    Doing so will obviously help the food bank but more critically it may also help you to understand and experience what it is like to see and eat food less as a hedonistic exercise and as more of an utilitarian necessity in survival skills -- and hopefully at week's end the latter allowing you to better appreciate the former.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      That's an interesting suggestion. But there has been times in my life where I've had to go for much longer than a week subsiding on a very low budget. I'm very familiar with understanding and experiencing what it is like to survive with a tiny food budget while working multiple jobs to pay basic bills. I agree with the intent of your suggestion. Going through that period in my life has made me much more appreciative of simple things in life and realize it is a luxury to not worry about bills even when it comes to a small decision like picking up a couple more pieces of fruit just because they look nice and are in season.

                      Donating money also doesn't break the regular routine.

                      Thanks for the usual ipse twist thought though.

                    2. I honor you and your company. One immersive volunteer opportunity I know is not about food: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary offers temporary and permanent homes for dogs, cats, horses, and other animals. Located in Utah, they welcome volunteers for any length of time, and I have heard it is a wonderful and rewarding experience from friends who have gone there. Of course, this may not be what you are looking for. bestfriends.org My best wishes whatever you choose.

                      1. If you are literally starting from scratch, see if there is a United Way volunteer office in your area. Most county volunteer centers that field opportunities and place volunteers either function under a UW chapter or under the Points of Light's Helping Hands in Washington, DC.

                        I don't know where you live or what your background is but typically meaningful volunteer assignments are based on: the location of assignment, mutual need of your time, skill sets.

                        Also, since your employer is making this offer, what assignments are your co workers finding and where are they finding them? Many company Intranet's list volunteer opportunities for their employees.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: HillJ

                          Right, there's plenty of volunteer opportunities listed in our company and people post about their experiences. I've also have donated my professional skills and continue to offer it.

                          But there's nothing quite like what I'm looking to do for the week. Just thought I'd give this board a shot. It won't be the end of the world if I don't find a food oriented weeklong immersive experience.

                          There's certainly plenty of non-food opportunities I can pursue that week. Thanks for the suggestions!

                          1. re: Jase

                            Yes, I've been thinking out loud just to try to wrangle a few ideas for you. Asking on CH is a great idea! I know some volunteer opportunities require time to apply, interview, get placed. That's why I suggested a local or driveable opp vetted through a volunteer center or UW to help narrow down your options. The hardest part is finding the right opportunity sometimes. But good luck Jase. I hope you do find something worthwhile and engaging of your skills. It is wonderful to know your employer is community minded.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Salvation Army is always looking for volunteers too. It would give you a little perspective into another way of life.

                              1. re: coll

                                So far the only volunteering I've done with Salvation Army is donating a queen size quilt for them to raffle off. But, I'll be honest the two chapters I was familiar with in NJ had me a bit concerned over how they utilized donations so when I couldn't get straight answers, I moved on to another charity.


                                1. re: HillJ

                                  The one here where I live is fantastic. They help so many families and homeless; when you are there you see it with your own eyes. My father always told me that they were the only charity he trusted (he was a NYC cop and had to take people off the street somewhere) and made sure every bellringer got a few bucks. There are headquarters scattered about, we have just one here in our county aside from all the smaller neighborhood places, they also function as a shelter and soup kitchen but they're the ones that pay all the bills and can give you more financial info than the smaller local places.

                          1. Sounds like you're looking for a mission trip. Contact local churches and inquire about mission opportunities or search mission trips on-line. Some may be domestic (in the U.S.), while others may be outside of our borders in places like Mexico, Dominican, Jamaica, Guatemala, Haiti, etc...

                            1. Another thought is to contact your local Rotary or Soroptimist clubs to see if they know of any ongoing projects. They are both international organizations with contacts all over the world. They should be willing to put out feelers for you if they don't know of something right off the top of their heads.