This post was updated on Tuesday, November 10, 2015.

It’s hard to think about hunger during the holidays. On Thanksgiving, most of us will be inundated with turkey, potatoes, and pie. The idea of an empty belly seems incongruous to the day itself. But for many families, it’s a sober reality. In San Francisco alone, over 150,000 people lack the resources to feed themselves and their families. They’re thankful not only for their families, but for the food banks whose tireless employees and volunteers helped put food on their tables. So if you’re looking for a way to give back to your community this holiday season or all year, here are some local volunteer opportunities at organizations offering food to those in need. If you know of a great program not listed here, please include it in the comments section.

Bay Area Hunger

This is a great place to get started if you’re interested in volunteering at a food bank. Bay Area Hunger is a resource organization that provides information on the the many food banks in the greater Bay Area so you can easily find one close to where you live or work. They even have a map detailing where each food bank is located. Their site also provides information on donating and upcoming benefits.

San Francisco-Marin Food Bank

Facebook:SF-Marin Food Bank
Twitter: @SFMFoodBank

The SF-Marin Food Bank is the critical link between food and people. They provide food to over 30,000 families each week through 450+ non-profit partners and will distribute 47 million pounds of food this year to meet an ever-growing need in our community.

How to Volunteer
You can volunteer in San Francisco or Marin, so sign up on their website to help out in their warehouse or with other activities.

How to Donate Food
Use their interactive map to find out where you can drop off food in San Francisco and Marin.

Alameda County Community Food Bank

Facebook: Alameda County Community Food Bank
Twitter: @accfb

Since 1985, the ACCFB relies on donations and volunteers to sustain their busy program. They provide food to 240 nonprofit agencies throughout Alameda County and distributed 25 million meals in 2014 — with over half of the food consisting of fresh produce.

How to Volunteer

  • Food Sorting — Help out during the week (when they really could use extra hands) or on weekends in their warehouse by registering online.
  • Be an operator on the Emergency Food Helpline — Operators refer food to more than 3,000 households every month. Bilingual reps are extremely in demand. There’s a three-month minimum volunteer requirement with at least one three-hour shift per week. Call (510) 635-3663 ext. 308 for more information.
  • Join their advocacy group — Become a member of Community Advocates Against Hunger (CAAH), which meets monthly and addresses anti-hunger legislation (like improved access to food stamps). For more details, contact Shanti Prasad at or (510) 635-3663 ext. 307.

How to Donate Food

  • There are food drop-off bins set up throughout Alameda County. Many of these are at schools, churches, and grocery stores; check their interactive map to find locations.
  • You can also take part in the ACCFB’s Virtual Food Drive where every $1 donated purchases $6 in food.
  • Consider organizing your own Food Drive at your work, school, church or with your community group. They will supply everything you’ll need. Call (510) 635-3663 ext. 318., email or register online.

Glide Memorial Church

Facebook: Glide Memorial Church
Twitter: @glidesf

Glide’s mission is to create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization. They provide up to 2,400 meals a day, making Glide one of the largest free meal providers in San Francisco. Glide is also the only program in town that provides three nutritious meals to the city’s poor, homeless and hungry 364 days of the year.

How to Volunteer

Project Open Hand

Project Open Hand provides meals to seniors and people living with serious illnesses in San Francisco.
Facebook: Project Open Hand
Twitter: @projectopenhand

How to Volunteer
Prepare meals on site, sort and fill grocery bag orders, deliver food, and serve meals for seniors at their senior lunch sites.

St. Anthony Foundation

Facebook: St. Anthony Foundation
Twitter: @stanthonysf

St. Anthony Foundation has responded to the needs of poor and low-income San Franciscans for the past six decades. They serve daily meals and provide shelter and clothes to those in need.

How to Volunteer
Volunteer projects range from serving food on Thanksgiving and Christmas, helping out in the dining room, sorting donated clothing to providing skills-based services in the Tenderloin Tech Lab, clinic, and social Work center. They offer both regular shifts and special group projects designed for large or small teams.

Meals On Wheels of San Francisco

Meals On Wheels of San Francisco exists to alleviate the food insecurity and loneliness experienced by seniors who want to stay in their own home but cannot shop or prepare meals for themselves.
Facebook: Meals On Wheels San Francisco
Twitter: @mowsf

How to Volunteer
Various volunteer opportunities are available, including being an at-home visitor for seniors who spend much of their days alone, shopping for seniors, helping with small in-home repairs, and delivering food.

Second Harvest Food Bank

Facebook: 2nd Harvest
Twitter: @2ndharvest

Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties has been providing services to the community since 1974. They are one of the largests food bank in the country, providing food to nearly a quarter of a million people each month. Of those they serve, most are seniors and low-income families with children.

How to Volunteer
Volunteer opportunities include food sorting, education and outreach, distribution, and administrative services.

  • Kei

    Thank you for encouraging people to be generous this holiday season! This is a great listing of different ways to help out.

  • Wanda Solis

    I would like to assist with the serving food on thanksgiving day

  • Sharon Coletti

    My husband, daughter, and I would also like to volunteer on Thanksgiving Day, cooking or serving food. Any ideas?

  • Meals On Wheels of San Francis

    Thanks for the shout out! Every year, Meals On Wheels of San Francisco has a volunteer meal delivery drive on Thanksgiving morning. Individuals, families and groups of friends are all welcome. For many homebound seniors, these visits really brighten their day. Interested volunteers can learn more and sign up at


Denise Santoro Lincoln

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise's Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.

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