It takes a village: We couldn’t do it without our volunteers
Our volunteers are just as vital to our work as our donors
By Emily Gallion, Grant & Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer/Intake Support
We often celebrate our monetary donors and talk about how far we can stretch your dollar. But if time is money, our volunteers are just as valuable. Volunteers are the heart of our work, and many of our operations, from food sorting to distribution, could not be completed without their generosity.
For proof, we only need to look back to recent history. In 2019, we hosted a record breaking 8,000 volunteers throughout our warehouse and mobile pantries. Largely in response to the 2019 Memorial Day Tornadoes, we were impressed to see the response of our community during a time of crisis. We knew our volunteer program was evolving into something special.
However, the onset of COVID changed everything about our operations. All of our mobile pantries temporarily closed, and over 40% of our partner agencies shut their doors for safety measures. The hardest decision we had to make was to not allow any volunteers inside our building, as they are the backbone of our daily operations.
The truth is, even though our staff is amazing, we could not be such a high performing team if it weren’t for the support of volunteers. For example, our mass distributions require over 100 staff and volunteers in order to make sure food is distributed quickly, traffic flows safely, and clients get registered in a timely manner.
At a recent Thanksgiving mass food distribution, we served over 1700 households. This could not happen with our staff of 50 people alone. We also rely on volunteers to support our monthly Mobile Farmers Markets, which distributed over 2 million pounds of food — much of it fresh produce — directly in high-need communities last year.
One of the best parts about volunteering is the people you will meet. Getting to see clients face-to-face adds a different level to the volunteer experience. As a Foodbank volunteer, you get to see firsthand the work we do to relieve hunger in our community.
While many people have assumptions about who our clients are, participating in our food distributions can foster greater empathy and compassion for our neighbors experiencing food insecurity. It is our hope that people will come to view those who use our services not simply as people in need, but as individuals with stories and experiences as rich and meaningful as their own.
Our goal for your volunteer experience is to leave as an advocate for our work. Charitable food assistance is just one way to address hunger in our community. To solve food insecurity at its root, we must work towards systemic change to address the drivers of poverty. By building relationships with volunteers, we can create a community of action.
To schedule a volunteer shift, visit www.thefoodbankinc.volunteermatters.org and create an account. You can participate in a variety of activities, including sorting and packaging food, working in our Urban Garden, and distributing food at a Mobile Farmers Market.
If you have ever volunteered with us at The Foodbank, we offer our gratitude on behalf of the people we serve. Your impact expands so far beyond the hours you serve!