The leaves are changing, football season is wrapping up, and everybody is preparing their homes and stomachs for the festivities of the holiday season. Part of the American tradition is the spirit of service — sounding out a call to action to give to those in need.

One of the most effective ways to give back during the holiday season is to donate and volunteer at local food banks. Volunteering your time to help staff a food bank, pantry, or another food distribution service is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Grab your family and friends, and spend some time giving back to the community. We have a few tips to help you get started.

  • Contact a food pantry about volunteering before the holidays. Spots can fill up quickly and you may need to attend an orientation before you start.
  • Be open to helping where you're needed most. You may be asked to pass out food, serve a warm meal, or deliver boxes of food to those who can't make it to their local pantry.
  • Consider other ways to give back beyond volunteering. It's great to have a backup plan in case you can't find the time to volunteer.

If you truly want to support the food bank system, donating cash can go a long way to ensuring that more people will receive access to the services they provide. Most food banks and pantries have donation portals on their websites and during the holiday season, some may run promotions where third-party sponsors will match your contribution. 

What foods make the best contributions to a food bank? Healthy, non-perishable items are always in demand at food banks. Things like canned vegetables, nut butters, chili and other canned stews, canned tuna, and canned chicken are especially valuable because they last a long time. Other pantry staples like rice, beans, oatmeal, nuts, and cooking oils are always excellent items to donate. 

During the holidays, when donations and need are at their highest levels, holiday food items make especially good donations. Cranberry sauces, canned pumpkin, stuffing, dry macaroni, and all of the other wonderful dishes associated with winter revelry can help someone in need bring cheer to the whole family. 

Making ends meet during difficult times can be easier with help from the right programs and other community resources. Cornell Cooperative Extension works with many local food assistance programs to help families, individuals, and seniors find and access food resources that best meet their needs.


Local Food Pantries

Angel Food Ministries
Lighthouse Wesleyan Church

101 S Lackawanna Street, Wayland

Avon Food Pantry
108 Prospect Street, Avon

Cal-Mum Food Pantry
Second Baptist Church

957 George Street, Mumford

Conesus/Webster's Crossing Food Pantry
Conesus Town Hall

6224 Conesus Springwater Road, Conesus

Dansville Ecumenical Food Pantry
41 Elizabeth Street, Dansville

Geneseo-Groveland Food Pantry
Central Presbyterian Church

31 Center Street, Geneseo

Hemlock Food Pantry
Hemlock United Methodist Church

4616 North Main Street, Hemlock

Leicester Food Pantry
161 Main Street, Leicester

Lima Food Pantry
Lima Town Hall

7329 Main Street, Lima

Livonia Food Pantry
4213 S Livonia Road, Livonia

Mount Morris Food Pantry
The New Family Theater

102 Main Street, Mount Morris

Nunda Food Pantry
Trinity Church of Nunda

25 East Street, Nunda