Editor’s Note: Hunger affects 48 million Americans including 15 million children. In honor of Hunger Action Month™, VolunteerMatch is spotlighting the story of a volunteer who fights hunger in one of San Francisco’s poorest communities.
Cameron Beck first started volunteering at the young age of 12. To his family, volunteering was simply a cornerstone of life; a benevolent reason to spend more time bonding with one another. The Beck’s would volunteer annually around the holidays at the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland California — a center that distributes nearly 25 million meals to 240 nonprofit agencies in Alameda County every year.
Alongside his parents and sister, Cameron used to help sort, organize, and pack food for the needy. You could say he grew up learning how to be altruistic. He later volunteered with the Boy Scouts, through his church program, well into his college years, and continues to help the Lutheran Volunteer Corps.
Fighting Hunger at Its Core
Fast forward to today, Cameron spends every Saturday volunteering at Project Open Hand in San Francisco, California — a nonprofit organization that provides meals with love to critically ill neighbors and seniors. Project Open hand prepares 2,500 nutritious meals, 200 bags of healthy groceries, and engages more than 125 volunteers in their volunteer program every day.
“They prepare a lot of food and distribute them to clients with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or other serious life-threatening illnesses,” says Cameron. “They also have a grocery store component where clients can come in and shop.”
Cameron first learned about Project Open Hand while he was working on Polk Street. As he passed their storefront on his way to and from work each day, Cameron became eager to learn more, and allowed his curiosity to fuel his passion.
The stars aligned and Cameron learned that his friends were working with Project Open Hand to conduct research on health outcomes for clients in food bank programs.
Cameron quickly learned of how Project Open Hand got its humble beginning. By serving food to LGBT folks and those living with HIV/AIDS in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood — a neighborhood with many very low-income residents and residents with disabilities — they were able to find hunger at its epicenter.
“When I realized they’ve been doing this work and it’s providing extraordinary results to clients — especially in the Tenderloin where access to fresh, quality food is hard to come by — I realized this was the organization I wanted to lend a hand to,” says Cameron.
During his shifts, Cameron helps stock grocery shelves, ensuring produce and other food ingredients are appropriated for when guests come in to shop.
A Social Service
Cameron really enjoys the communal aspect of volunteering, and being of value to a cause in need. “Through my day job [in public service], I serve the civilians of my city,” says Cameron. “Sometimes, it can feel isolating, so volunteering really helps bring that social aspect into my professional life.”
Cameron has one piece of advice for those who have never volunteered:find an organization that matches your passion (VolunteerMatch has 29 causes to choose from) and just get started.
“Organizations are always looking for volunteers,” says Cameron. ‘And you’ll learn about those opportunities once you open that door and reach out. You can be heavily involved or an occasional volunteer. Just do something you love to do and enjoy doing with others.”