Food, Fun and Friends
It's hard to convey in words--written or spoken--what it's like to volunteer as a Food Drive Ambassador. We stand outside the doors of local markets greeting customers with a flier with info about Food For Thought as well as a list of items that the food bank is particularly low on. We accept cash and food donations. It sounds a little daunting. The truth is that most people find they enjoy working at our food drives. There is something truly remarkable about the whole experience. Over the 2.5 hour shift, you get to watch as the food piles up. The initial nervousness about asking strangers for food and money disappears as a little girl wearing a big smile totters over to our bins with a box of cereal or a customer walks out and shocks you by dropping a $20 bill into your donation jar. It's really uplifting to see that even in these hard times people are willing to pick up an extra jar of spaghetti sauce or peanut butter to pass along to our clients.
We currently work with 14 markets around the county, which means there's a good chance we've got a food drive in your neighborhood. We have food drives twice each month. They are always on Saturdays. We currently go to three markets on each date. In the past we have been able to hold food drives at four markets at once, but we need more volunteers to get back to that practice. Our summer hours are 10am-5:30 and we break the day into three 2.5 hour shifts. We also need volunteers with trucks or vans to pick up the bounty and the end of the day and bring it to our site in Forestville.
Food drives are more fun with a friend. I can speak from experience as I've gotten a number of friends and even my mom to come along to food drives with me, and we've had a great time of it. Two of our current volunteers are a young couple who attend El Molino High. They like making a game of seeing who can get more customers to take our flier into the store with them. We welcome parents with their kids and teenagers over 16 without a parent to supervise.
The Food Drive Program brings in roughly 50% of Food For Thought's annual food budget. In June, 2012, we held food drives at a total of 6 markets. We received 549 boxes of cereal, 483 jars of spaghetti sauce, 439 jars of peanut butter, and 603 other items, making a total of 2,074 food items collected in June. Between food and cash, June 2012's food drives brought a little over $14,000 to FFT. That's just shy of $1,000 per hour of food drives. I am constantly amazed by what can be accomplished in one day by dedicated volunteers and generous members of the community. Please contact me at AmandaW@FFTfoodbank.org or 707-887-1647 if you are interested in being part of this facet of Food For Thought.