Joycealyn From Americorps Gives Back to Tarrant Area Food Bank

Joycealyn From Americorps

In 2018, Joycealyn Shaw attended a semester of culinary training at Tarrant Area Food Bank’s Community Kitchen in the hopes of becoming a chef and learning more about dietetics. Never in a million years did she think that she would return to TAFB as a volunteer during a crisis two years later. When TAFB’s Volunteer Center shut its doors for public volunteers in March following coronavirus social distancing guidelines, Shaw found herself more determined than ever to get in and help out. That’s when she found Americorps and was able to join TAFB’s forces in giving back at this critical time.

Shaw said, “Americorps is a really awesome non-profit organization who basically go out and get all these awesome people who want to give back to the community somehow. Because COVID took off, they were looking for ways to help with that, and so here we are. I was really interested in being able to get in here and help because this is family to me, this is my home. By any means necessary, I just wanted to do it.”

After graduating from TAFB’s Community Kitchen program, Shaw worked several jobs in the culinary industry, starting at the Omni. She was working full time when the COVID-19 pandemic struck Texas. Fortunately she is able to keep her job, but her hours are a bit different. On her days off, she volunteers full days at TAFB in the Distribution Center and our Learning Garden where fresh produce is grown for local pantries.

“We normally start at the Learning Garden at eight o’clock,” Shaw said. “We’ve been doing some pretty awesome things out there; I’ve learned so much. We weed, we compost, we sift. I’ve learned the stages of composting—that’s been awesome. I’ve planted so many vegetables and harvested [them]. We’ve [also] been preparing these emergency boxes for the community. Within there, it has some protein, some essential needs, some goodies, and then [TAFB] pass[es] it out.”

Twenty-five pound emergency boxes have been TAFB’s critical response to the coronavirus. Hundreds of cars in drive through lines get a box placed right into their trunks at pantries. Boxes contain essential staples such as canned protein, fruits and vegetables, shelf-stable foods like pasta and rice, as well as nutritious snacks, cereal and condiments. Shaw spends half her volunteer time preparing these boxes and takes pride in doing so.

“I’m a behind the scenes person; I prefer it to be that way. In regards to volunteering and giving back at this time, it means a lot. Even though I’m considered ‘essential,’ I’m not getting paid to do this, and I feel that I’m really affecting someone’s life. I’m putting love into [each] box and they’re receiving that, so that makes me feel good,” Shaw said.

Having worked multiple jobs in the area, Shaw is well aware of the food insecure population who is affected by the pandemic. Because of her love of food and cooking, she finds it extra special that she is able to work with the Tarrant Area Food Bank to provide the joy she gets from food to somebody else.

Shaw said, “Before I started cooking, I was a teacher and a program coordinator. So I’ve worked with the inner city kids or the inner city people in general, so I saw the need. Me knowing that I’m able to work but these people may not be, [and] being able to take my time and give it to them and have it be where they’re getting something I believe in—which is food—made my day.”

Gardening is Shaw’s favorite part of the day, she reports. In a space where she can work outside and harvest produce that goes directly to TAFB’s partners, Shaw feels best when giving back, especially when hands-on. Right now, volunteers and advocates like Joycealyn are the people who make what TAFB does possible: providing millions of nutritious meals to hungry people.

To learn more about Tarrant Area Food Bank’s opportunities to give back, consider starting a virtual food drive or signing up to volunteer at a pantry to which we deliver.