Volunteers are an incredibly important asset to any food pantry. Volunteers may be excited or seem hesitant about the shift to the choice model. Both reactions are normal. Once transitioned, volunteers actually find that they love choice because they see the impact the pantry is making. Pantries may experience having a few volunteers leave; but with a little forethought into each role in the pantry, volunteers of all interests and abilities can work in a choice pantry.

Whether you have a large or small volunteer base, choice can work. We are going to go over the different types of volunteers and what roles they may take on. You do not have to have one person for each role. These are just ideas of what you need your volunteers to do to make the pantry run.

Volunteer Roles

Back of the House

These volunteers tend to be the ones that prefer to work solo. They may prefer to be behind the scenes and may be the ones resistant to the new choice model. Within this group, you could have two types that fit different roles.

Organizers: Ordering, Receiving, Stocking, Inventory Manager

Doers: Food pick-up, Stocking, Carrying Assistant, Runner, Cleaning

Front of the House

These volunteers are the ones that enjoy the interaction and/or the action of the pantry day. Patient and welcoming are key characteristics of these volunteers. Within this group, you have the same types as the back of the house.


Organizers: Check-in, Stocking, Manager


Doers: Greeting, Shopping Assistant/Guide, Bagger, Carrying Assistant, Runner, Floater

Volunteer Descriptions & Expectations

To help you lay out your volunteer roles and communicate them clearly, we have a list of optional positions with simple descriptions.
  • Download the Volunteer Roles file and update the roles to fit your specific pantry. We started a couple to give you an idea of how you can compile your job descriptions. Add in the information based on your organization. If u201cjob descriptionsu201d sound intimidating, you can call them volunteer expectations.
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  • The essential roles are welcoming guests, stocking the food, and helping the guests navigate through the pantry. The other roles are dependent on the number of volunteers you have and their expertise.
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  • Remember, you do not have to fill all these roles; it is just a suggested list. It is okay if your pantry doesnu2019t need a specific job. Also, for roles such as stocker, you may find it is better to have more than one volunteer assigned.
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  • Once you have filled out the volunteer roles, you can share the list with current volunteers and use it to recruit and train new volunteers.
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We have heard from many partners that volunteer recruitment and retention is one of the hardest things to maintain. By defining the specific roles you need filled and setting clear expectations, you can communicate what you need with your community more clearly. You may find that you are able to fill more roles and keep more volunteers. The other thing to remember is volunteers want to feel they have a purpose and are appreciated. Delegating, thanking, and listening to their ideas can help keep volunteers engaged and committed.

Whew! Thatu2019s a lot to think about but you have all of the pieces of the puzzle. All thatu2019s left is putting it all into writing so that you can train others to run the pantry and finally go on a vacation!

Pantry Leaders

Pantry leaders, the next two sections are just for you. If you are not a pantry leader, you may mark the next 2 sections complete and take your final quiz!

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