Janis is heavily involved in community service which includes running a bi-weekly breakfast program for the homeless and families in need.
Serving by Feeding
Volunteer work is a wonderful vehicle by which members of a community can lend a helping hand to individuals in need.
Having an opportunity to give back and make a difference in someone's life is a deed with immeasurable benefits to all parties involved.
Those benefits can extend to the community at-large by providing vital services that local city and governmental agencies cannot always render to the number of citizens in dire need.
For example, volunteers in cities across the United States and around the world offer and run feeding programs for the hungry on a daily basis, making provisions to countless individuals and families.
According to Feeding America, the USDA reported that in 2011, households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children.
Regarding the need for food assistance, 57.2 percent of these households participated in at least one of three programs provided by the federal government (Food Stamp Program, School Lunch Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children).
So there is clearly a need for volunteers, along with organizations, to do their part in alleviating hunger in our communities. The unexpected benefits to those who participate in this type of community service is that they feel happier within themselves as they positively touch the lives of those in need.
Serving Food Provides a Basic Need
In Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the quest for human beings to reach "self-actualization" is defined by the ability to have certain basic needs met at five progressive levels. These include, in order of need:
- Biological, physiological
- Belonging, love
- Esteem, accomplishment
- Self-fulfillment, personal growth
The need for food is in the first stage. All human beings have a very basic need for food to sustain, giving the daily energy needed for functioning and survival.
Unfortunately, social issues such as neglect, unemployment, poverty, homelessness, addiction, and unexpected traumatic loss and disaster can cause this basic need to go unmet indefinitely.
The millennial term used to refer to those neighborhoods with limited access to nutritious food is "food insecure." The term removes the stigma away from those who do not have access or means and places responsibility on the businesses and organizations to address lack of food supplies in neglected areas.
Volunteers and Community Service
In our country, volunteers pick up a huge part of the slack by organizing and providing food services through:
- Soup kitchens
- Mobile feeding trucks
- Food pantries
- Breakfast programs
- Emergency food banks
- Care packages for the ill, elderly, and housebound
- Partnerships with farmers' markets and grocers
- Monetary donations to non-profits and churches
As volunteers provide these vital services to the hungry, they receive unexpected blessings themselves. There is something very innate about being able to feed someone who is hungry as a mother feeds her child. Food provides comfort and safety.
It is a sacred act to feed someone who had not received a hot, home-cooked, nutritious meal in a long time, regardless of his or her circumstances. It warms the hearts and souls of the volunteer as it fills the body and spirit of the receiver. Participation in community service benefits all parties involved on many levels.
Volunteers Participating in Their Bi-Weekly Community Service at a Breakfast Program
Volunteering Really is Good for the Soul of the Giver
Studies have shown that there are physical and psychological benefits to those who volunteer. They are happier and healthier individuals who live longer compared to the rest of the population. This is partly because they are supplying a need, giving from the heart, with no expectation of anything in return.
This act of unconditional love lifts the spirit, giving a boost to overall health and well-being. In turn, happier, healthier people become better members of society creating a win-win for all.
Making a Difference in Your Community
As you ponder what difference you can make in your community, consider volunteering at a feeding program. Better yet, explore where there is a need in your neighborhood or a city near you.
Start a feeding program with a group of friends, your fraternity, sorority, or church group. It could start out as simple as handing a container of soup to a homeless person, straight from your own kitchen.
In a nation as rich and plentiful as ours, no individual or family should go hungry or be malnourished. Feed the hungry and feed your soul.
If there aren't many feeding program opportunities in your area, look at the poll in this article to get ideas about what you can do. There are people in need of a helping hand in every community. Contact your local social service agency, churches, non-profits, or volunteer clearinghouse for information.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 Janis Leslie Evans