My Experience Volunteering at a Food Bank During the Pandemic

Hi, I am Mariah and in 2020 I volunteered with my local food bank for about 8 months.   

How did the Food Bank change with lockdown rules?

Originally, the food bank had volunteers who sorted the donations and restocked the shelves, so clients could come to the food bank and choose which items they needed. 

With lockdown rules, the food bank adapted by having staff and volunteers collect food, stock shelves, and distribute food. Clients would choose the food items they needed, and the volunteers would put together a package for them. The clients could either pick-up their order on a set time and day, or we had volunteers deliver orders to clients through a contactless delivery method.

What was the method of choosing the food clients needed?

The foodbank used a shopping model. The client picked items we offered, such as non-perishables items, fresh produce, milk, eggs, bread, and frozen proteins. The food bank also offered a variety of hygiene and baby products.

How did community members place orders?

Anyone needing of food living in the community was asked to provide identification and documentation proving they were a resident. After the initial registration, the client would be contacted about their order and method of delivery.

Picking up / Delivering Orders

On the day of a volunteer shift, we were all split up into different roles to ensure an efficient and effective day of fulfilling orders. The following roles were Shopper, Assembler, Driver, and Hamper Maker.

The shoppers would grab a list for a client and go through the food bank to grab the requested items. They would then bring the completed order to the assemblers.

The assemblers would double-check the list and pack the order in boxes.

The drivers would pick up the assembled orders for their route and make a couple of rounds of deliveries.

The hamper maker would put together a “hamper” which consisted of a box of non-perishables that every client would receive. The non-perishables included pasta, soups, peanut butter, cereal, oatmeal, crackers, juice, beans, and canned meat. The hamper maker would make as many as they can in a shift, so there would be enough for the next day of orders.

Donating Options

During the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the food bank received the most amount of food donations. The pile of food was from floor to ceiling, with volunteers and staff organizing the donations to distribute to clients.

However, after the busy “giving” season, the summer months saw fewer and fewer food donations. The food bank relied on the stock we had organized, and donations that came from local vendors. One thing I learned from volunteering at the food bank is that there are specific donations that they wish they received more of. For example, feminine products or diapers and formula. Additionally, if more people donated money to the food bank, they would be able to allocate the money to purchase the products they need more of, instead of relying on an abundance of donations during a specific season.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit The Burlington Food Bank website.