Soup kitchens exist as a resource in most major cities and small towns to help feed the homeless and the hungry. Volunteering in a soup kitchen is an excellent way to help others or complete community service hours. When volunteering at any soup kitchen, here are five essential tips to keep in mind:

Be Patient and Empathetic

Do not be rude to the people who come to eat at the soup kitchen, even if they have poor manners or hygiene according to your standards. Remember that the people running the soup kitchen are also under lots of pressure, financial and otherwise. It is your job to be kind and helpful, keeping unnecessary opinions and criticism to yourself.

Keep Cleanliness and Food Safety as Your First Priority

Tie your hair back, wash your hands, and never cross-contaminate when working in the kitchen. Free meals should be just as safe to eat as homemade or restaurant meals. Food safety standards for temperature and hygiene should always be followed.

Wear Comfortable Clothing and Shoes

The soup kitchen is not a fashion show or a time to show off flashy outfits. Wear something comfortable and straightforward. Keep in mind that it may be hot in the kitchen. You will also potentially get food stains on your clothing while preparing and serving meals.

Find Out When Help is Most Needed

Some days or times, it may be appropriate to show up unannounced as a volunteer. Usually, it is better to call or visit ahead of time to find out what days and times the soup kitchen will be open. You can also find out which days and times volunteers are most needed. During the holidays, there is often an increased need for soup kitchen volunteers.

Be Prompt and Follow Directions

If you are asked to arrive at a particular time, be sure to arrive at that time or a few minutes earlier, ready to work. Even though you will not be paid, you should treat the opportunity as a professional job. Follow all given directions thoroughly and respectfully.