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Why you shouldn't volunteer on Thanksgiving

Food banks and pantries do need volunteers, just not on the holiday.

With Thanksgiving just six days away, a lot of people in our community are looking to reach out to people in need.

A popular volunteer spot is food banks and pantries.

This week, though, an article titled "Why you shouldn't volunteer at a soup kitchen this Thanksgiving" has generated a lot of conversation and questions.

But nonprofits say, if you stop and think about there's a good reason not to volunteer on Thanksgiving day.

The short answer is yes, but for a good reason.

First and foremost, it's important to say local groups do need lots of help this holiday season.

But, lots of people are set on giving back specifically on Thanksgiving day.

The Idaho Foodbank is one of those places. They say, the huge one day influx of volunteers can be tough to handle.

It's the season of giving, and many people are looking to volunteer on the day dedicated to that -- Thanksgiving.

It may sound backwards, but many food pantries and soup kitchens actually don't want your help on that day specifically, instead they have something else in mind.

"That they look for opportunities in December and January where they can go and volunteer at those same locations," said Carlyn Blake, development manager at the Idaho Foodbank.

Blake says food banks always appreciate the help, but too many one-time volunteers pitching in on one day can make things tough.

"It's a little easier for us, if we have a big full warehouse, if you could just take another look at another opportunity because we really do need volunteers all year round," said Blake.

Because this time of year, there are a lot of Idahoans in need.

"When we look at the amount of people we are serving, on average it's about 169,000 people every month across the state of Idaho," said Karen Vauk, President and CEO of the Idaho Foodbank.

At the Idaho Foodbank, finding a time to help all those people in need is easy.

"We have an awesome system called Volunteer Hub, and if you go to Idaho Foodbank.org and click on volunteers you can actually log into a system and see what is available from a volunteering stand point," said Blake.

Many volunteers want to know beforehand what they're signing up for. Most of the time, volunteers will be tasked with food resorting.

"We can't distribute a huge buckets of pears so we break those down and put them into individual bags and then distribute them out to industry partners," said Blake.

For those that are looking to give to the food bank or local pantries, the shopping list is very simple.

"Things like canned protein, canned fruits, canned veggies, things that are shelf stable and non-perishable so we have a chance to divide them up and get them to our agency partners," said Blake.

So, of course there are lots of people in need this time of year.

"This is when our highest volume of the year -- October, November and December time frame," said Vauk.

But food banks and pantries want you to keep in mind that need goes beyond the holiday season.

"If those volunteer slots are full we hope you try again and you just don't walk away forever because we really need you," said Blake.

If you are looking to give this holiday season, the Idaho Foodbank says giving money is really one of the best things you can do.

For every dollar donated, the Idaho Foodbank can provide five meals.

To clarify again, places like the Idaho Foodbank really want you to volunteer, but they hope people can pick days beyond thanksgiving and through the spring to come in and help.