How to Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Arranging to Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Most cities and towns across the United States have a local soup kitchen or food pantry -- and many have more than one. To locate a shelter, soup kitchen or food pantry nearby, you can look in the phonebook or go online. Churches, schools and government agencies may also be able to help you in your search. After locating a facility you want to help, call and ask to speak to the volunteer coordinator or manager to discuss volunteer opportunities. Consider your availability and then inform the kitchen of when you would like to help.

Typically, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. But if you are school-aged, or plan to involve school-aged persons in your volunteer group, be sure to notify the volunteer coordinator of this. There could be age restrictions or safety concerns to consider.

Soup kitchens are typically flexible and cooperative with your schedule, but always remember to treat the volunteer experience as if it were a regular job. Be dependable, show up on time and take your responsibilities seriously. Since soup kitchens, shelters and food pantries rely almost exclusively on volunteer help, skipping a shift can have a huge impact on workflow. Also, be professional -- remember that soup kitchens are meant to provide free, nutritious meals to guests in a respectful manner that allows them to retain their dignity.

With national figures passing the 30-million-people mark, ending hunger seems like an impossible goal. But it doesn't have to be. By volunteering at a soup kitchen, shelter or food pantry, you can help fight hunger and make a difference in the wellbeing of your community.

For more information on volunteering, check out the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Angel House Soup Kitchen. "Volunteer Opportunities." (Accessed 04/29/2009).
  • Blanchard, Rashawn. "Volunteering in NYC: Soup kitchens." Associated Content. 12/20/06. (Accessed 4/29/09)
  • Bread for the World. "Hunger Facts: Domestic." (Accessed 5/24/09)
  • Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). "Hunger in the U.S." (Accessed 5/24/09)
  • Franciscan Outreach Association. "Volunteer to Help the Homeless at our Volunteer Shelter." (Accessed 4/29/2009)
  • Meyers, Thomas. Personal Interview. 4/29/09.
  • "Depression-era Soup Kitchens." 2009. (Accessed 4/28/09)