Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What safety and eligibility requirements are in place for volunteers?
As a food handling organization, we have always been keenly focused on health and safety. As of June 1, 2022, we are following Austin Public Health (APH) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and are no longer requiring masks or social distancing in the building for employees, volunteers, or visitors. Of course, if you would prefer to wear a mask while volunteering, you are certainly welcome to do so.
We do require that volunteers must meet certain eligibility requirements to sign up and participate in shifts. Volunteers, including those who are partially or fully vaccinated, must be able to say YES to all of the following statements when they come in to volunteer:
- I do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 or any other communicable illness
- In the past 5 days, I have not been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, and I have not been in close contact with someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 or who is quarantining for COVID-19 exposure
If you have had COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, you can return to volunteering if:
- It has been 5 days since your symptoms resolved
- If you did not have symptoms, it has been 10 days since your positive test
Thank you for carefully self-screening according to these eligibility requirements before coming in to volunteer. Your support as a volunteer makes our mission possible, and your safety as a volunteer, as well as the safety of our staff and clients, is very important to us.
Q: Can I still wear a face covering if I would like to?
A: Of course! You are welcome to wear a mask if you would like to. If worn, face coverings should fit snugly over your nose and chin, covering your mouth and fitting closely on the sides.
Q: I want to volunteer! How do I begin?
A: All volunteers are required to create an account and sign up for their spot online before arriving onsite. This includes children, guardians, or each member of a group that has a reservation. With social distancing requirements, only a limited number of volunteers can participate in each shift. If you show up to a volunteer shift without first creating an account and signing up for a spot, it is unlikely that you will be able to volunteer.
You will be able to see up to one month at a time of volunteer opportunities available for signups. Individuals can self-schedule into any shift where there are available spots. If you’re interested in coming as a group, we’re currently taking group requests of up to 30 for our Warehouse - Food Sorting shifts.
Q: I want to help but all the shifts look full! Is there something else I can do?
A: The best way to help from home is to do a virtual food drive (VFD) to help raise money online. Funds raised through a VFD are flexible – the Food Bank can put your dollars toward the area of greatest need, which helps us prepare for and respond to evolving situations like COVID-19.
We also encourage you to check the calendar frequently. When cancellations occur, spots automatically open up on the website. If the shift you’re interested in is marked “Full” or “Reserved”, there are no more available slots for that shift.
Q: What’s the age requirement to volunteer?
A: You must be 8 years or older to volunteer in the warehouse and 15 years or older to volunteer in the kitchen, garden, or Mobile Pantry.
All volunteers under 18 years of age require an adult chaperone who is over 21 years or older from the same household, and the minor and guardian must each create an account and register for their own volunteer spot. Youth under age 8 are unable to volunteer with us and/or enter our volunteer workspaces for safety reasons. We do not offer childcare services during volunteer shifts.
Starting June 1, 2022, we will be able to host groups of youth volunteers, and chaperones will not have to be from the same household as their minor. We require a ratio of no more than 5 minors per 1 adult age 21+, and we will be able to book groups of up to 25 youth at a time. Please note that we may revise this policy if Travis County's COVID-19 Community Level changes from 'low' to 'medium' or 'high'.
Q: How do I register my child to come volunteer with me? My children do not have their own phone number and/or email address. Can they use mine as their adult chaperone?
A: Each person that comes to volunteer has to create an account and register for a volunteer spot under their own name, including minors. To create your child’s account, sign out of your own first. If your child does not have his/her own phone number and/or email address, adult chaperones/parents/guardians may use their own contact information to create an account for each child. Once the account is created, you can sign them up for the shift.
Q: I need to arrive late or leave early, is that a problem?
A: If you think you may need to arrive late or leave early, please find a different shift that you can fully attend. It is more important than ever that you stay for your entire shift. When volunteers arrive late, exit early, or do not attend, we are left struggling to feed hungry people.
You should arrive 5-10 minutes before your scheduled shift time to check-in and be ready to participate in important training. Volunteers who arrive after their scheduled shift start time may not be permitted to join the volunteer shift. Specifically, warehouse volunteers who arrive more than 30 minutes after the shift begins will have missed important training and will be asked to come back another day.
Q: I would like to donate food before my volunteer shift. How do I do that?
A: We accept contactless food donations during our regular business hours, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. All food donations are received in the back of our building (look for the “Delivery Entrance” sign off of Burleson). Please plan to drop off donations in that location before or after your shift, as it is not accessible once you are in the building.
Q: Where can I put my personal belongings while I volunteer?
A: Each program area has a designated space for you to store your personal belongings for your shift. Please remember, the Food Bank is not responsible for lost or stolen items while you are serving with us. Volunteers do not need to bring any tools or personal items. Please make sure you wear closed-toe shoes and appropriate clothing for your shift. If you need a water bottle, please bring your own.
Q: Why do you need my personal information for the registration process?
A: We fully respect your privacy, and the Food Bank will never sell or share your personal information for any reason. We collect only required information and records on each individual (such as a volunteer agreement and media release). For this reason, each volunteer must create their own account prior to serving with the Food Bank.
Q: Is the Warehouse climate-controlled?
A: Part of our warehouse is climate controlled. However, some of our volunteers in every shift will be working in an area of the warehouse that is not climate controlled, and in the summer it can get quite warm. So please come dressed for your comfort with breathable clothing.
Kitchen shifts may take place in a cooler/freezer area. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own warm jackets. Garden and Mobile Food Pantry shifts take place outdoors, so please come prepared with the appropriate attire for the weather and plenty of water.
Q: I’m allergic to certain foods. Will that impact my volunteer duties?
A: If you have food allergies, please communicate that with our staff before your shift date so that we may discuss what accommodations may be possible. If you have severe or life-threatening food allergies, we cannot guarantee or prevent exposure and encourage you to reconsider joining any volunteer shift with us.
Q: Is there a private lactation room at the Food Bank?
A: Yes, the Food Bank features a lactation room for guests and volunteers needing a private place to express milk. The room features a dedicated refrigerator, sink with soap and paper towels, cleaning supplies, a comfortable chair and foot rest. Please see a Volunteer Engagement staff member for access to the room.
Q: I need proof or verification of my hours at the end of my shift. Will I receive a verification letter?
A: For shifts completed at the Food Bank, we are happy to sign your paperwork if you have your own, or we have blank hours logs available. If you volunteer at a Mobile Pantry, you must bring your own form and get your paperwork signed while you are present at the shift. We are not always able to confirm service hours completed at a mobile pantry after the fact.
Additionally, you can access an official report on any warehouse, garden, or kitchen hours (not mobile pantry) through your volunteer account. In the drop-down menu of your account, select “view hours”. On that page select the orange “view hour history button”, select the date range you’d like to see and select “update” to see a printable report of your hours. If you are seeking proof of your hours for court-mandated community service restitution, please see our guidelines for community service here.
Q: Is there a room my group can use for lunch purposes? Or can my group schedule a tour before/after the volunteer shift?
A: Until further notice, we are not conducting any non-essential volunteer activities onsite, including tours, meals, or room rentals. Thank you for your understanding.
Q: Can we take photos while volunteering?
A: Photos are encouraged during service shifts, while being respectful of your shift leader and fellow volunteers. We encourage volunteers to share photos online. Please tag us!