8 Ways to give back with food

Dec 6, 2012 at 6:41 a.m. ET

This holiday season, amid the baking and shopping, make some time to do a good deed. Whether you opt to feed the hungry or send cookies to soldiers stationed abroad, your actions are sure to bring some holiday cheer to someone who needs it.

family participating in food drive

Besides being a worthy endeavor, it's also a great family activity and an important lesson in giving back. Have a conversation with your kids about it and let them choose the activity that speaks to them.

Food drive

If your child's school doesn't already run a holiday food drive, it's a great thing for you and your loved ones to organize. Besides giving back to the community, it also develops leadership and organizational skills. Find a local food bank and touch base with them for details; most have clear guidelines about what they will accept and pick up.

Soup kitchen

Winter is particularly challenging for the hundreds of thousands of homeless people in the U.S. Nothing feeds the soul and nourishes the body like a hot meal, which is provided at countless soup kitchens throughout the country. Find one near you, in a church basement or through a nonprofit, and see how you and your family can help out, either serving or in the kitchen.

christmas cookiesSend cookies

Baking cookies for soldiers who are deployed overseas is a wonderful way to give back with food during the holidays. Be sure to pack them tightly in an airtight container with lots of padding.

Sponsor a holiday meal

Some organizations offer opportunities to sponsor holiday meals for those less fortunate by having volunteers provide the supplies, cook or donate funds. Sometimes they provide a holiday meal "in a box" for a family, or sometimes a local organization will host a dinner or holiday party on-site. Check in with your favorite organizations to learn more.

Get everything you need to know about sending care packages to soldiers >>

Deliver meals

Another option is to volunteer with an organization that delivers meals to housebound sickly and elderly individuals. These establishments always offer plenty of volunteer opportunities, from behind-the-scenes meal preparation to on-the-ground meal delivery. Check out Meals on Wheels, which has chapters across the country.

Package meals

If you want to make more of a global impact, help out an organization, like Kids Against Hunger, that prepares and packages meals to feed starving families around the world. You can donate money, supplies or your time to help a great cause like this, all while teaching your kids about the global food epidemic.

Community garden

Community gardens are all the rage these days, and if you want to teach your kids to have a connection with their food there's no better place to do it. Most community gardens rely on volunteers to help with everything from gardening to manning information booths.


If your holiday is just too hectic to give your time this year, you can still help by donating to a food-centered charity of your choice. Consider a program like Wholesome Wave (run by the folks behind Food Inc.), which helps families on federal assistance by matching their food stamp allotment with a coupon to be used at local farmers markets and other places with healthy food options.

Check out five of our favorite food charities >>

More ways to give back during the holidays

How to spend time together and give back during the holidays
How families can give back this holiday season
Ways to volunteer as a family