How Volunteering Helps You

Hint: You may live longer.

Posted Sep 16, 2016

Pexels.com, used with permission
Source: Pexels.com, used with permission

The act of volunteering provides many benefits to you, the volunteer. When you improve someone else’s level of joy and quality of life, you give your own sense of happiness and worthiness a boost. Community volunteer work, in particular, offers a sense of pride and fellowship as you enrich your own neighborhood. Volunteering provides a great opportunity for social contact with other volunteers and sometimes with the recipients of your kind acts. You might even make a new friend or two. And what better way to experience all of these warm and fuzzy feelings than to help feed men, women, and children who might otherwise go hungry?

Make a Good Thing Better

As a nutritionist working in corporate wellness programs and, at the same time volunteering at a local food bank, Ruthi Solari found herself teaching healthy eating to one of these groups, while handing out a lot of unhealthy food to the other. It occurred to her that, while food banks are a wonderful and necessary way to get food to people who wouldn’t otherwise have enough to eat, here was an opportunity to make it even better. Solari founded SuperFood Drive, a nonprofit with a mission to upgrade the health and nutrition knowledge of everyone involved in feeding the hungry and at the same time, upgrade the quality of food donated to food banks and distributed to those in need. Her primary message: The opposite of hungry is not full; the opposite of hungry is healthy.

The goal of SuperFood Drive is to transform traditional food drives at schools, offices, religious institutions and charitable associations into opportunities to collect wholesome, nutritious foods for those who might not otherwise have access to healthy meals. By doing so, food drives can actually help decrease the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other medical conditions in those who count on free food for some or all of their nourishment. That’s a wonderful idea, but how does it benefit those who volunteer?

“Everyone knows someone who is struggling with their health, and how much of a barrier that is to living a productive life,” Solari reminds us. “When you learn and practice healthy habits as a volunteer, you take home knowledge you can use for yourself and your loved ones.”

Everyone Benefits

Simply put, if you’re trying to help someone get from hungry to healthy, help stock their pantries with nutritious foods, not just that old dented can of creamed corn you found in the back of your cupboard. Filling an empty stomach with overly processed food provides much-needed calories, but little in the way of essential nutrients that can help someone stay healthy and fight off obesity and chronic diseases that are related to being grossly overweight. The solution is as simple as donating brown or wild rice instead of white, canned black beans instead of canned corn, or low-sodium canned soups instead of regular varieties. By giving a little extra thought to the food you donate to or prepare for those who are without, you reinforce the principles of healthy living for yourself and your loved ones.

“What happens to others could happen to you or a family member or friend,” Solari adds. “What if you found yourself in need and were struggling to put food on the table? How would you hope to be treated? What type of food would you want to receive?”

And by regularly volunteering into old age, you not only stand the chance of improving someone else’s health and longevity, you may live longer and better yourself. Research published by the federal government’s Corporation for National and Community Service several years ago found that, statistically, people who routinely volunteer (at least 100 hours a year, which breaks down to 2 hours a week), especially older adults, live longer and experience better physical and mental health than those who do not.

Resources:

SuperFood Drive  

Corporation for National and Community Service  http://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/benefits-volunteering  http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/07_0506_hbr...

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