10 Things I've Learned Volunteering at the Food Pantry

Since November of last year, I've volunteered at the Hutto Community Food Pantry nearly every Saturday morning. I've worked in the back, sorting donations, shelving donations by type and date, weighing donations, and packing up the weekly food boxes for clients. I've worked in the front, assisting clients with their free choice items, restocking free choice items, carrying items to cars, and mastering the computer programs that track client activity. Over these past months, I've learned more than just the operations of the food pantry.
Lesson One: Hunger affects everyone. Clients range in age from newborn to old age. We see mothers, fathers, children, babies, grandparents, the unemployed, the underemployed, part time workers, the retired, military families, single parents, students, and many more. Hunger can affect a person's ability to function at work, at home, and at school.
Lesson Two: None of the clients want to be there. It's hard to ask for help. It's harder to admit you need help. It's worse to go hungry and have to swallow your pride to actually show up to walk in the door. Many years ago, when I was a single parent, I once ate popcorn for two weeks so my two kids could have the real food. I've stood in many a line in the past to get a bag to feed my children. It's not easy.
Lesson Three: Never judge who walks through the door. Her designer purse may be the only one she owns, purchased at the second-hand store or a garage sale. His new shoes may have been donated by his church. The children's nice winter coats may have come from standing in line, shivering in the cold wind, for six hours at the community center. They may be seeking help because medical bills or unexpected job loss wiped out their budget. Whatever the reason, no one is turned away.
Lesson Four: None of this happens without the hands of many volunteers. There is no single person responsible for the operations of the food pantry. Dozens of volunteers give their time, their hands, their feet, and their compassion. Behind the scenes, there are board meetings, food pickups, food drives, phone calls, and lots of prayers. Although this food pantry is open only on Saturday mornings from 10-12, the work continues all week long in one way or another.
Lesson Five: Everyone can help their local food pantry. Those who live comfortably can donate food or time. It takes just a few minutes to gather a bag of canned or boxed foods from your stash and drop them off at the food pantry, whether it's once a month or once a week. Many of our clients even lend a hand by bringing us their recyclable bags, reusable bags, boxes, and even foods their family won't eat, so we can pass it on to another.
Lesson Six: Hunger happens year-round. It's customary for people to give around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but food pantries need food every week of every year. It's wonderful to give away a turkey with all the trimmings, but when school lets out for the summer, families on the school lunch assistance program suddenly have to provide lunch to their kids. It doesn't matter what day it is if you're hungry.
Lesson Seven: Children can take part in volunteering. Allowing children to take part in helping feed families is a wonderful experience for them. Each week, we have teenagers helping carry boxes and bags to cars. We even have younger children who come along with their parents to lend a hand. Children are wonderful ambassadors for food drives too. The local schools and scout troops often bring in food items they've collected. Children who have a heart for volunteering will continue it into adulthood.
Lesson Eight: Local area businesses are instrumental in keeping the pantry stocked. From the Capital Area Food Bank and HEB Grocers to the local doughnut shops, coffee shops and pizza places, support comes in many forms. Sometimes it's a huge donation and sometimes it's not so much, but every single food item and every single dollar that is donated is welcome and appreciated. 
Lesson Nine: Volunteering feels wonderful. Sometimes people shy away from volunteering because they just don't know how to get involved. I just showed up at the food pantry one Saturday morning and told them I was there to help. Some days when I get home, I collapse on the couch for a nap, but it's a good feeling knowing I'm tired because I worked hard to help someone. If every person in every town volunteered their time somewhere just a couple hours a week, or even a month, can you imagine the wonderful changes we could make in our world?
Lesson Ten: Food pantries are motivated by love. There is no better way to share God's amazing love than by being His hands and feet here on earth. Jesus once said: 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

Hutto Community Food Pantry serves those in the Hutto Independent School District, on Saturday mornings from 10-12, located at Hutto Lutheran Church, 206 East Live Oak Street, Hutto TX 78634. To find a local food pantry in your area, do an internet search, search your local phone book, or contact a local church.


  1. Great post! I am a huge advocate for stamping out hunger! Childhood hunger is especially near and dear to me. Thanks for volunteering at your local pantry, without many hands all suffer!

  2. Lisa, you have been such a great asset to our food pantry. Thanks. Our mission is to help those who need a little help. We are here for a reason. May we continue to focus on our mission. Thanks again Lisa for what you are doing for the pantry.

  3. All I can say is God, your parents and Otis together put the Holy Spirit's gift of giving into your heart. I am so proud of you.

  4. Great article - thank you!
    I volunteer as our food shelf and love it.

    1. You're welcome. I'm glad you volunteer too!

  5. This is so awesome. I have volunteer at the food pantry several days when I was unemployed in 2008. It was an amazing experience and it was a blessing. Shortly after serving others, I was blessed with a job offer.

  6. Volunteering is back breaking work but well worth the effort for anyone who has the time. I volunteered at a Thanksgiving dinner way down in NYC one year-the work was grueling (2 full days of it) but the grateful looks of the diners was worth every second.

  7. Wow! These are not just things learned but all really great points! Surely a lot of stock pilers can help with stuff like this too. I've heard of a few who actually do that and it's so great.


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