MLK Day: An Opportunity to Serve

published Jan 16, 2021
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Volunteers showing family produce from CSA boxes at community center.
Credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

On the third Monday of January, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to honor the civil rights leader. Although this is a day off, there is work to be done! MLK Day is the only federal holiday that has a specific mission, and that mission is encouraging Americans to spend time serving their communities.

For us at Kitchn, a place where food is the heart and soul of everything we do, MLK’s fight against hunger is an especially strong call to action. It was a topic he addressed often. In his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize speech he shared this message: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.” In a country with so many resources, Dr. King asked us to question how it is that hunger continues to exist, and to remember that every person deserves access to good, quality food.

As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, King’s message is more important than ever. Food insecurity is at an all-time high, food banks are overwhelmed, and farmers are facing unprecedented challenges. January 17th gives us the opportunity to find a need and fill it however we can. 

To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of mostly food-focused groups and organizations, but for broader volunteer opportunities, check out the resources at MLK Day of Service

A network of more than 200 food banks that feeds more than 46 million people across the country. 

An Afro-Indigenous centered organic farm committed to fostering food sovereignty and community self-determination. Their programs — including farmer training, food justice workshops, and harvest deliveries to food insecure households — reach more than 10,000 people every year.

Founded by chef José Andres, World Central Kitchen is dedicated to providing meals in the aftermath of natural disasters. WCK’s COVID-19 relief program, #ChefsForAmerica, distributes meals for families while also helping restaurants. They have provided more than 35 million meals in 400 cities.

A coalition of Black-led organizations that organize for Black food and land by developing Black leadership, supporting Black communities, organizing Black self-determination, and building institutions for Black food sovereignty and liberation.

An organization focused on addressing senior isolation and hunger: two things that have been exacerbated by COVID-19. 

A group that focuses on empowering migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice. 

This fund was created in the spring of 2020 in an effort to meet the most critical needs of the 20 Pueblo Nations during the COVID-19 crisis.

An organization that serves African American farmers. They focus on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, education and agricultural training, and rural economic development for black and other small farmers.  

A group that fights hunger, poverty, and injustice.