Feel Good, Have Fun Volunteering at the SF-Marin Food Bank


volunteering at the sf-marin food bank

The importance of contributing to a meaningful cause through volunteer work is a value that many parents want to instill in their children. While there are all sorts of ways to get out there and make a difference with your kids here in the Bay Area, volunteering at the San Francisco warehouse of the SF-Marin Food Bank, located at 900 Pennsylvania Avenue, in Potrero Hill, is particularly kid-friendly and surprisingly fun.

The Food Bank’s Mission

The mission of the SF-Marin Food Bank is to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin by distributing food donations to needy people throughout the area; a cause that even very young kids can get their heads around. Before volunteering at the Food Bank, take the opportunity to talk to your child about the problem of hunger in our community – check out the Food Bank’s website for detailed information – and how the work they do will help achieve the Food Bank’s goals. Your team leader will let you know at the end of your volunteer shift exactly how much food you helped prepare for distribution.  

Age Requirements for Child Volunteers

Kids are given a warm welcome at the Food Bank but must be at least eleven years old for weekday shifts, at least eight for Saturday shifts, and at least four years old for Sunday shifts.

Signing Up for a Shift

Signing up to volunteer at the Food Bank can be done online and is super quick and easy. Begin by creating a user account and you’ll then be able to sign up by clicking on available two-hour shifts listed on the Food Bank’s volunteer shift calendar. Keep in mind that weekend shifts are quite popular, so you should plan to sign up as far in advance as possible to volunteer with younger kids, especially if you have a large group. Shift sign-ups are posted three months in advance for three-month periods, so, for example, sign-ups for May, June, and July are posted on February 1.

community service san franciscoTypical Volunteer Projects & What to Expect

You won’t find out exactly what you’ll be doing at the Food Bank until you arrive for your shift, but projects typically include sorting fresh produce or donations from food drives, packaging bulk foods, and assembling grocery boxes for seniors. On my first visit to the Food Bank with my daughter and her soccer team last fall, we were tasked with packaging frozen corn. After donning plastic gloves and hair nets – a source of great hilarity for the then nine-year-old kids – we reported to a chilly workroom (if you go, dress in layers!) where tables were laid out with large vats of corn, plastic bags, scoops, twist ties and scales. Everyone at the table had a job to do, including measuring out one pound bags of corn, squeezing the air out of the bags and sealing them up, and packaging bags into boxes. Others in the group were in charge of quality control, checking the weight of each box, taping them up and putting them on pallets for delivery.

On our second Food Bank volunteer shift with the soccer team a few weeks ago, we participated in two completely different projects: assembling grocery boxes for seniors and sorting plums. The grocery boxes involved an assembly line process broken into numerous small tasks, where my daughter’s job was to add a can of pears to each of the boxes as it rolled down the line. As with the frozen corn project, the kids participated with a level of energy and enthusiasm that I wished my daughters had for cleaning up their own rooms and folding laundry.

Since our group finished the grocery boxes with time to spare, we spent the remainder of our two-hour shift sorting through huge bins of plums, throwing out the bad ones and packaging the good ones up in boxes. It was fairly mindless manual labor, yet for me, seeing how much we could accomplish working together was gratifying. And for the kids, trying to find the yuckiest plum in the bin became a fun competition of sorts that kept them entertained and engaged.    

But no matter what project you end up being assigned for your shift at the Food Bank, you’ll feel good when you leave, knowing that you’ve done some good for the world and taught your child the value of volunteering. And I’m willing to bet, like me and my daughter, you will even have fun in the process.  

community service san francisco

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Born and raised in the Philadelphia-area and holding both a U.S. and Swedish passport, Inger, a former environmental attorney who is in the process of reinventing herself, has lived in San Francisco with her husband and two daughters (born in 2006 and 2007) since 2008. Inger’s “son,” Charlie (a Ragdoll cat) joined the family in 2015, followed by two rabbits. Inger finds spiritual inspiration in yoga and the great outdoors and counts Swedish summers, Italian reds, and impromptu 80’s dance-parties among her favorite things. In addition to writing about all things mom, Inger especially loves to write narrative style pieces about her travels, which can be found at ingerhultgrenmeyer.com.


    • Hi Heather! Somehow we missed this comment when you added it last month. We’ll get you added (if you haven’t signed up via the website already.) Welcome!


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