Warm Intentions, Meet Cold Reality: Joel Berg on Thanksgiving volunteering

Warm Intentions, Meet Cold Reality: Joel Berg on Thanksgiving volunteering

November 25, 2009

From the New York Times article by Ariel Kaminer on volunteering to fight hunger on Thanksgiving:

What is the sound of one eye rolling? Call Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, and tell him you want to engage in that wonderful holiday tradition of volunteering on a soup line in the third week of November.

“Thanksgiving is to hunger groups what Halloween is to a costume company,” he said. “Sometimes people actually get mad at us when they call a day or two before Thanksgiving or a day or two before Christmas and want to volunteer, when in fact many of these agencies have waiting lists months in advance.” Out of fear of alienating anyone, Mr. Berg said, some places just make up work for people to do — even if it gets in the way of more important business.

So though Mr. Berg appreciates the thought, he says the best way to contribute is to lend your specialized abilities, such as legal or computer skills.

“The truth is, spending a few hours at a food pantry or soup kitchen helping people apply for food stamps will do a lot more to end hunger than months serving soup or moving cans around,” he said.

Happy Thanksgiving — take a look at the rest of the article, or at Joel Berg’s All You Can Eat, to see what you can do — and to understand why hunger is the kind of problem that needs to be fought year-round, not just during the holidays.

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