Now in its 40th year, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee serves 46 countries and works to address hunger issues by providing food to a network of nearly 500 nonprofit partner agencies across Middle Tennessee. With the support of the community, Second Harvest supplies 29 million meals annually through volunteer work and food drive donations.

We spoke with Ally Parsons, senior director of marketing and communications at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, about how you can make a difference by helping feed hungry people across Nashville.

There are many types of service within Second Harvest. Could you highlight some of the best opportunities for new volunteers?

With volunteering, you get hands on experience at our distribution center by helping source the food that's going directly to people in need. We also encourage people to donate food, which you can do through a traditional food drive. You can do that at your home. You can do that at your work. It's very easy to do. However, you can also do a virtual food drive, which means you’re basically raising funds that will then go to purchase food that is needed. For every dollar you give we can provide four meals, so we can really stretch your dollar. You don't have to make a large donation to make a difference.

What tips or advice would you give to someone to kind of make the most of their volunteering?

Be ready to work. If you’re working in the warehouse, we’ve got the music blaring, and you’ll have a really good time. So dress comfortably, wear closed toe shoes and be ready to have fun. It’s a really great team building activity. We have lots of groups like girl scouts and boy scouts, corporate groups and even just individuals who grab a couple of friends and want to volunteer. You're going to have an active role and be really proud of what you've done. In our typical volunteer shifts, with all the people who are signed up, we can go through 10,000 pounds of food during one shift.

Are there any opportunities later this summer or fall people should know about?

Yes, September is Hunger Action Month. We’re a member of Feeding America, a national campaign that food banks across the country participate in. For that month, we’d encourage people to sign up to volunteer or host a food drive. The color for Hunger Action Month is orange, so even doing simple social media things like posting a photo wearing orange and saying you support hunger relief … it's a great way to help educate people that hunger exists in our community, and it’s also a great to actually come out and experience our mission firsthand.

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 How to host a traditional food drive

At Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee, traditional food drives are one of the major channels through which the organization collects food. Each year, more than 2 million pounds of food is collected through drives organized by individuals, corporations, churches, schools and other groups. Donations stay within the county, meaning you’re able to help make a difference in your own community.

Step 1

After completing an online registration at secondharvestmidtn.org, you can pick up boxes 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday in the main lobby of the food bank, located at 331 Great Circle Road in Nashville. If you are unable to pick up the boxes, which each holds about 80 pounds of food, you can use your own collection boxes.

Step 2

Before you begin your food drive, Second Harvest has a few online resources to help plan and promote the drive, including ideas for a wider reach, logos, organization facts and more.

Step 3

You can drop off food drive donations at any time in the Second Harvest donation barrels at your nearest Kroger store.

Visit secondharvestmidtn.org/act/donate-food for full instructions on how to host a traditional or virtual food drive.