Volunteer During Different Times of the Year
I know this seems counterintuitive to Thanksgiving, but there is a reason behind it. Skip volunteering on the day or week of Thanksgiving, and instead consider lending a hand during other times of the year when these places need the most help. Food banks and pantries, soup kitchens and so on receive an overwhelming amount of interest in volunteering for Thanksgiving.
In short, the people working at these establishments end up having to focus a lot of time and energy just to accommodate the amount of interested volunteers. Places like these always need help and it would be much more beneficial to help out during times when volunteers are typically scarce.
To find your local food bank, check out Feeding America.
Donate Food to Your Local Food Pantry or Food Bank
The easiest way to give back this Thanksgiving season in regard to food is to donate it. Canned and boxed foods are some of the best choices to donate. As a plus, most canned goods are inexpensive, so you don't have to break the bank to help out.
Going off the previous point, food pantries and banks also need money. As college students, money can be tight but a little bit can go a long way. Consider getting a group of friends together or even a club or organization you're a part of, and having everyone donate a small amount of money.
Together, you can collect a decent sum to give to a food pantry or another hunger-related organization you're interested in. You can donate to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks, or find your local food bank through their website and donate directly to them.
Pie in the Sky
The next suggestion hails from two communities I personally get to call home. If you are from the Greater Philadelphia area (including South Jersey) or the Greater Boston area, skip buying a pie at the grocery store and consider buying pies from Pie in the Sky.
You'll be helping either Philadelphia's MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance) or Boston's Community Servings. There are several choices of pies that you can order, and it'll save you time from having to make your own if you're not a baker.
Everyone knows about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but have you heard of Giving Tuesday? It's a global day of giving that started in 2012. On their website, you can find ways to get involved in your own community using an easy search tool.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is the oldest and largest organization that addresses senior hunger and isolation. They support over 5000 community-based senior nutrition programs nationwide and with the help of a network of two million volunteers, they deliver nutritious meals and safety checks to America's senior citizens. Get involved by donating or volunteering your time.
Get involved with the Salvation Army and their holiday volunteer opportunities. Some ways volunteers help out include packaging meals to distribute to those in need or serving food. They also offer countless other volunteer opportunities for the holidays, not just in relation to food.
No Kid Hungry
If you're particularly interested in donating to a program that helps children in need, consider donating to No Kid Hungry. According to their website, thirteen million kids in the U.S. struggle with hunger. By donating to No Kid Hungry, you're helping not only make Thanksgiving a better day for plenty of kids, but the rest of the year too.
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is an initiative that operates in twelve cities and is headquartered in NYC. They are doing their part to eliminate food insecurity by accepting both monetary and food donations. This includes food leftover from events, at offices or from food businesses, and distributing it to homeless shelters.
If you think the holiday party your office, club or organization is hosting will have leftover food, consider contacting Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and not letting that food go to waste.
Hopefully these ideas have inspired you to do a little extra with these last few weeks of November and the rest of the holiday season too. Remember, any little bit counts.