19,808,678 meals provided so far in 2019
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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions

Thank you for your interest in volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank. We couldn’t do what we do without the generous support of volunteers like you. Together we are providing food to more than a quarter million people in our community every month.

Here are some of the questions we hear most often. You can also watch our video to learn more.

What volunteer opportunities are available at Second Harvest?

We have a number of opportunities, whether you want to volunteer once a year or on a regular basis. Check out our calendar to see what opportunities are available and to register for an upcoming shift.

Do I need to register or can I just show up for a volunteer shift?

Every volunteer needs to register individually – even if you are part of a group. You can register here.

What if the shift I want is already full?

We are fortunate to have strong community support, but it means the shift you want may already be full. The highest demand for volunteering is during the holidays, but your help is needed all year long. If you find the food sort timeslots you want are filled already, please consider joining us after the holidays. In January we need help sorting the food we collect during the holidays. Summer is a good time because half of what we distribute is fresh produce, and the harvests come in fast during those months. There are also other volunteer opportunities available, including distributing food in the community. Check out our calendar for available opportunities.

Can I come as a group?

We can accommodate groups of five or more. The maximum group size varies depending on where and when you want to volunteer, but in general we can accommodate groups of up to 30 to sort food at our Cypress Center in north San Jose and up to 15 at our Bing Center in San Carlos. Community food distribution sites generally need individuals. Any groups of four or fewer are treated as individual volunteers.

What if I have fewer than five in my group or I want my group to be part of a sort for individuals?

Groups with four or fewer people should register as individuals and be sure they are signing up for a sort that is open to individuals. Groups should only sign up for group sorts. Look to the lower right of each sort description and it will note whether the sort is for individuals or groups.

What if an individual sort works better for my group?

Each shift is specifically designed for either individuals or groups. We want volunteers to have a rewarding experience while helping us provide food to the community. So it’s important for groups to only sign up for group sorts and individuals to only sign up for individual sorts. Look to the lower right of each sort description and it will note whether the sort is for individuals or groups.

How early do I need to book my group?

It’s best to book your group as soon as possible. This is particularly true during the holidays, when the demand for volunteer opportunities exceeds the capacity. We’re thankful to have such wonderful support from the community. In general, the calendar is published for a rolling two-month time period for food sorts, with the next month coming available on the first of the month.

How do I register my group to volunteer?

Check out our calendar and find a day and time that work for your group. You will be able to see how many remaining slots are available. If your group is larger than the number of available slots, you will need to pick another date. We do have a capacity limit for shifts. Questions on group sizes? Email VolunteerServices@shfb.org to see if we can accommodate your request.

I scheduled my group – am I done?

Almost! Every individual in your group must now register online in advance – including you if you are planning to volunteer. (Often the person registering the group is not actually participating.)

  • We will send you a confirmation email with a link and a group confirmation number (usually GR-####) that everyone in your group will use to register.
  • You can forward that email to everyone in your group so they can register and confirm their spot.

Can I come if I’m not part of a group?

Yes! We have many opportunities for individual volunteers. Check out our calendar to find a day and time that work for you. Please note at the bottom right corner of the description whether it is for groups or individuals. Only sign up for the individual shifts. Good times at Cypress Center in north San Jose for individuals are the three-hour shifts weekday mornings starting at 9 a.m., Wednesday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Is there anything special I should wear?

Yes, closed-toe shoes are required to sort food in our warehouse. You also need to wear long pants, and no sleeveless shirts please.

Are there any other food sort opportunities for individuals?

If you enjoy volunteering in our warehouse on a regular basis, and you like being a leader, you might be interested in becoming a volunteer Team Leader at Second Harvest. If you are interested, please contact us at VolunteerServices@shfb.org.

I have skills or special talents I would like to share. Are there any other opportunities available?

We have a wide range of opportunities at Second Harvest and we’d love to connect with you. Please submit an online application for skill-based volunteering at Second Harvest. We may not be able to match you immediately with an opening, but together we can find a way to utilize your talents.

What is the minimum age to volunteer?

The minimum age is 14, and all youths must have a signed electronic permission slip on file at least 48 hours in advance of volunteering. In addition, there are chaperone requirements for youth ages 14 and 15 (1 adult 21+ for every 5 youths) and for those who are 16 and 17 (1 adult 21+ for every 10 youths). Some volunteer opportunities have a higher age requirement; click on the opportunity for more information.

I still have more questions, what should I do?

You can contact us at VolunteerServices@shfb.org.