Frequently Asked Questions
To feed at-risk children, families, and seniors, we primarily need your help sorting food donations from grocery stores, food drives, and local farms.
By sorting food for different programs and distribution sites, you help provide millions of meals each month to our hungry neighbors in Middle and West Tennessee. Projects vary and may include:
- Evaluate, sort, and pack non-perishable food donations.
- Evaluate, sort, and pack frozen or perishable food in our 40-degree cooler.
- Bag bulk produce into family-sized portions.
- Pack food bags for children or boxes for senior citizens.
Other volunteer opportunities include supporting our administrative staff, volunteering on a family night with children ages 6 and older, working on a partner farm, riding along on the Produce Truck distributing food, or assisting with one of our food drives or fundraising events. See the volunteer calendar for a full list of what’s currently available.
All volunteer shifts must be scheduled in advance in our online volunteer calendar. Walk-ins are not accepted.
Individuals and families can see open shifts, and sign up to volunteer directly on the calendar.
Groups of 5 or more must be scheduled by a designated group leader who is 18 or older. The group leader inquires about availability, and is contacted within 3 business days. Once the shift is scheduled, the group leader receives a confirmation email with assignment details and registration information that needs to be shared with the group members.
MARTIN DISTRIBUTION CENTER – NASHVILLE
Group food sorting opportunities (ages 12+)
- Tuesday through Friday, 8:30 am–11:30 am and 1:30 pm–4:00 pm
- Monday through Thursday, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm
- Saturday, 9:00 am–noon and 1:30 pm–4:00 pm
Individual food sorting opportunities (ages 12+)
- Monday through Thursday, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm
- Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 am–11:30 am
- Saturday, 1:30 pm–4:00 pm
Family Night opportunities (ages 6+)
- Thursday, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm
NACARATO DISTRIBUTION CENTER – SMYRNA
Food sorting opportunities (ages 12+)
- Tuesday and Friday, 9:00 am–11:30 am
- Wednesday 1:30 pm–4:00 pm
- 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month, 9:00 am–11:30 am
- 2nd Wednesday of the month, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm
RAY SMITH FAMILY DISTRIBUTION CENTER – CAMDEN
Food sorting opportunities (ages 12+)
- Monday, 3:30 pm–6:00 pm
- Tuesday, 5:30 pm–8:00 pm
- Thursday and Friday, 9:00 am–11:30 am
- 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, 9:00 am–11:30 am
Second Harvest is closed on Sunday.
Additionally, we have special events, summer farm shifts, and administrative volunteer opportunities available at various times of the year. See the volunteer calendar for a full list of what is currently available.
Bring a sweatshirt and long pants in case you work in the 40-degree cooler. Cell phones are allowed in the warehouse, but may only be used for taking pictures. Bring a refillable plastic water bottle (glass isn’t allowed in the warehouse).
Bags and purses are not allowed in the warehouse. Lockers and a coat rack are provided for storing any items you don’t want to keep in your car. Keep personal and valuable items to a minimum (i.e. electronics, jewelry, etc.), as Second Harvest is not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items.
The dress code for warehouse volunteers is casual and comfortable. All warehouse volunteers must wear closed-toe shoes. Volunteers wearing sandals or flip-flops won’t be allowed to volunteer. Please ensure that everyone in your group is aware of this policy. Bring a sweatshirt and long pants in case you work in the 40-degree cooler.
Volunteers may be asked to follow a different dress code for special events and volunteer opportunities outside the warehouse.
If you’re volunteering individually, you can cancel a shift by simply logging into your account and selecting “cancel registration” on the assigned shift.
However, if you’re volunteering with a group, you must notify us within 48 hours of a cancellation or significant group size change by contacting us.
Yes. Each shift includes a welcome, training, time to work on the project, and a wrap-up that includes a report on how much was accomplished. When volunteers are late or leave early, they’re unable to enjoy the full volunteer experience. If you can’t stay for the entire shift, please sign up to volunteer at another time.
Food sorting volunteers don’t need an advance training session. Simply sign up to volunteer, and be present for your scheduled shift. You’ll get a brief orientation and training on your assigned task right before you start working.
Training may be required for specialized administrative or volunteer leader roles.
Volunteers use the main entrance. The receptionist or volunteer coordinator greets you, and helps you sign-in using our kiosk and get a name badge.
The minimum age for volunteers is 12 years old, except for Family Night on Thursday when the minimum age is 6 years old. Volunteers under age 18 must have a Youth Volunteer Waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian. All volunteers younger than age 16 must volunteer with an adult.
Youth volunteer safety ratio is 1 adult volunteer for every 7 volunteers under age 18.
While volunteering is a great way to teach children about service, before signing up it’s important to assess a child’s maturity levels and ability to listen and follow directions. Our projects take place in an industrial warehouse with dangerous operating equipment and safety is a major concern, particularly for young children.
Yes, community service shifts are available during weekday business hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am–noon and 1:00 pm–4:00 pm. No weekend or evening shifts are available.
Court Appointed Community Service hours won’t be credited to volunteers working at any other time, or for any other volunteer opportunity.
Volunteers with the following charges (past or present) are not eligible to complete their hours at Second Harvest: theft of any kind, sexual assault or misconduct of any kind, or violent crime of any kind.
Learn more about court ordered community service policies here:
Second Harvest is concerned with the safety of all volunteers, employees, and guests. Volunteers work in a warehouse environment around hazardous equipment and chemicals. We want our volunteers to have a fun and rewarding experience while also abiding by our safety standards.
Read our hazardous material volunteer training here.
Yes, volunteering at Second Harvest provides team-building opportunities in the warehouse or on partner farms. We welcome corporate teams, office groups, schools, service organizations, alumni groups, associations, families, fraternities and sororities, and religious organizations. The group leader must schedule the group’s visit and is the main contact for that group. The group leader should forward volunteer information and registration details to all group members before the visit.
Food sorting groups range in size from 5 to 100 people. We have three project workspaces within our warehouse, and can accommodate up to 100 people during one shift. The non-perishable, main sort room capacity is 50 people, the backpack/special project room capacity is 30 people, and the cold-food sort room capacity is 25 people.
Group sizes can range in size from 2 to 12 people for the Farm to Families program, which involves volunteering on local farms.
Yes, every member of your group 18 years and older must pre-register on our website before arriving to volunteer.
When you register your group, you will receive a unique link. As group leader it’s your responsibility to distribute this link to everyone in your group so they can pre-register. This allows us to have a record of each volunteer, and serves as the volunteer waiver for adults.
All minors MUST have a parent or legal guardian sign a hard copy of the Youth Volunteer Waiver. This form can be turned in the day of the volunteer project.
Free volunteer parking is available in all Second Harvest parking lots.
If you’re volunteering at the Martin Distribution Center in Nashville, it’s located north of downtown in the Metro Center area (intersection of I-65 and Rosa Parks Boulevard). The address is 331 Great Circle Road, Nashville, TN 37228.
If you’re volunteering at the Nacarato Distribution Center in Smyrna, the address is 1958 Almaville Road, Smyrna, TN, 37167.
If you’re volunteering at the Ray Smith Family Distribution Center in Camden, the address is 69 Benton Industrial Road, Camden, TN, 38320.
If you’re volunteering for an off-site event, we’ll send you an address when you sign up to volunteer.
We’re happy to help! Please use the form below or call (615) 627-1581.
Volunteer Contact Form