Making a Difference: TAFB Employee Spotlight
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?
Silly knock-knock jokes aside, when Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) opened its doors in 1982, the majority of food donations that came through our Distribution Center were shelf-stable, nonperishable items. Today, thanks to collaborative efforts between TAFB and our local and national grocers, we are working to provide more fresh fruits, vegetables and frozen foods to those at risk of hunger.
Peeling Away the Layers – How a Food Bank Works
To efficiently collect, store and distribute fresh produce, as well as adhere to state and federal food safety regulations, we have a team of employees and volunteers working in our 67,000-square-foot Distribution Center six days a week. This team is led by TAFB’s most tenured staff, Director of Operations Lety Fraley and Warehouse Manager Benny Garcia. As director of operations, Lety is responsible for managing a long list of details starting with all Distribution Center (DC) operations and maintenance.
The DC houses four walk-in coolers—two of which are more than 24,000 square feet—and two walk-in freezers that span more than 54,000 square feet each. Lety also manages the DC staff, food inventory and food safety, and maintains TAFB’s fleet of trucks, including several refrigerated 18-wheelers that are necessary in the collection and distribution of fresh foods.
Having worked for TAFB for the last 21 years, Lety is no stranger to the challenges that can come up on a daily basis. It can be taxing work to make sure that every aspect of food storage and distribution runs smoothly and that food doesn’t go to waste. Problem solving on this side of food bank operations is vital and that’s what Lety enjoys most about her job. For Lety, it’s all about “working to meet our mission.”
As warehouse manager, Benny takes care of the day-to-day operations of the DC in Receiving, where food donations are delivered to, and in Distribution, the section of the DC where food donations are picked up by Partner Agencies. He also oversees Quality Control, where food donations are sorted, weighed and boxed. Since TAFB deals with so many fresh and frozen food items, staff are trained to follow strict procedures. “Training staff on proper procedures and processes (for food handling),” is one of Benny’s favorite tasks.
A Zest of Inspiration
Lety first interviewed with TAFB in 1993, and it was during that time that she became more interested in how TAFB helps those in need in 13 counties. “Since then, working at TAFB has become my passion,” said Lety.
Lety’s most memorable experience so far was when she participated in the food distribution at one of the first TAFB Mobile Panty sites in downtown Fort Worth. Two words, “thank you,” that came from a client who visited the pantry to receive food, stay with Lety to this day.
“It’s not about the money.” Lety Fraley
Benny worked 23 years in the automotive industry and had experience working for the U.S. Postal Service when he was referred to TAFB by a friend. Once he got here, he realized that he not only liked that TAFB helps people, he liked how we help people.
While Benny has helped out at Mobile Pantries, it’s his conversations with volunteers and staff at our Partner Agencies that affect him most. Listening to them share their one-on-one experiences with the individuals and families they help makes Benny glad to be working here.
Food for Thought
Tarrant Area Food Bank’s mission of empowering communities to eliminate hunger by providing food, education and resources through innovation and collaboration means different things to different people. To Lety, it’s about connecting our mission to the collaboration between TAFB and our partners. One responsibility we take on as a food bank is to provide food safety training to our Partner Agencies. Lety also noted that the acceptance of new ideas and collaboration between departments within the Distribution Center helps us with our mission.
“We’re doing more than distributing food.” Benny Garcia
Benny added, “Not only are we getting food ready (for distribution), we have staff in other programs reaching out to those at risk of hunger and signing them up for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or introducing them to other services that we have available that they may not be aware of.” TAFB offers a variety of programs and services for those at risk of hunger including several child feeding programs, Cooking Matters courses that teaches families and individuals living on a tight budget how to prepare healthy meals, and a Community Garden program that brings groups together within the community and demonstrates how to grow and harvest fresh produce.
Benny shared that he appreciates Lety’s work over the years to improve TAFB’s efficiency in receiving, storing and distributing food. With the second half of the Building to Feed Communities capital campaign underway, Lety and Benny are looking forward to the opportunity to continue improving efficiency in the Distribution Center and help even more children, families and seniors in need in North Texas.
What is a superhero’s favorite drink? Fruit Punch!
Lety and Benny make quite the hunger-fighting duo and are treasured members on our team of Hunger Heroes. When asked what super power Lety and Benny would possess if they could, Lety’s reply was the ability to increase her brain power allowing her to absorb more knowledge. Meanwhile, Benny’s response was that since bats enjoy cold, dark caves and the Distribution Center reminds him of a cave, he’d like to become Batman.