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Looking Beyond the Target Audience: Examining Motivations for and Impacts of Volunteering with Food for the Summer

      Objective

      To determine the motivations for and impacts of volunteering on individuals and families who volunteered with Food for the Summer, an initiative to expand the Summer Food Service Program in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, North Carolina.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      Volunteer opportunities that allowed individuals to bring children and family members, such as delivering and serving meals, were made available to the community through an online sign-up form. Over the summer, 525 individuals signed up and volunteered with the program. An online survey was sent to volunteers at the end of the summer, with 132 responding. Respondents were predominately local school system parents (50%), retired individuals (20%), and local school system employees (16%).

      Outcome Measures and Analysis

      Responses to two open-ended questions related to motivations for volunteering (n=105) and the impact volunteering had on the respondent and his or her family (n=81) were coded using an inductive approach.

      Results

      Key motivations for volunteering included the issues the program addressed, a desire to serve the community, and the ability to volunteer with their children. Key themes regarding impacts of the program on respondents and their families included increased awareness of issues such as food insecurity and poverty in their community, and interacting and building relationships with other volunteers and the children and families served through the program.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Individuals and families volunteering with Food for the Summer benefited from their experiences. Programs addressing food insecurity and nutrition should consider looking not only at outcomes related to their intended target audience, but also at how the program impacts the volunteers and providers involved.

      Funding

      None

      Supplementary data