Growing up, I was lucky to be able to celebrate the holidays with home-cooked meals that embodied family traditions. Yet while I and many of us at UVA can look forward to such feasts during the holidays, one in six members of the Charlottesville community cannot. Fortunately, there are several fantastic food charities in the area that are helping to alleviate hunger. 

Before heading back home for the holidays, I encourage you to spend time volunteering with one of the charities below. Each organization has slightly different programs and goals, and you will almost certainly be able to find one that is a good fit for you.

1. Blue Ridge Area Food Bank

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank (BRAFB) is a member of the non-profit organization Feeding America, which works with a nation-wide network of charities to distribute nutritious food and fight hunger. BRAFB itself distributes over 200,000 pounds of food each year to 25 countries and 8 cities in central VA.

Individuals interested in getting involved with BRAFB can consult their calendar of events to see which programs at the Charlottesville distribution center need their help. BRAFB will also be hosting a holiday food drive and "Shop to Stop Hunger" contest at Barracks shopping center during the first weekends of December.

2. Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry

Loaves and Fishes is one of several food pantry charities that serve the Charlottesville area. It provides once-monthly grocery packages to low-income families, which help families stretch their budgets and reduce spending on food. Loaves and Fishes is able to purchase groceries at a discount, and also accepts food donations.

Those wishing to volunteer can contact Loaves and Fishes at Individuals can commit to monthly or weekly volunteering at the pantry, and can also fill in for shorter periods of time when other volunteers are away. This makes the holidays, when many people travel, a great time to get involved.

3. The Emergency Food Network

The Emergency Food Network fills a specific need among Charlottesville's food charities by providing three nutritious meals to families on the day of their request. The Network serves Charlottesville and Albemarle County. It operates out of two locations: a private pantry where groceries are stored and packed, and a distribution center where clients pick up groceries.

Volunteers are typically asked to make a once-monthly commitment to work at the Network, but it is also possible for groups to organize one-time food drives. If you’re looking for a last-minute philanthropy project for a sorority, club, or other organization, consider reaching out to about getting involved.

As the finals frenzy sets in, it’s important for each of us to reflect on the joys of food that we have to look forward to, and the ways in which we can help those who are less fortunate. Finding time to volunteer for one of these organizations is a small step that each of us can take to help ensure healthy and delicious holiday meals for all members of the community.