Summer Volunteers Step Up
By Linda Smith
Director of Volunteer Services, Tarrant Area Food Bank
It happens every year: the school year ends and summer arrives. For the Volunteer Services team at Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB), it marks the beginning of a very busy time of year. While our school-based children’s feeding programs observe a hiatus for the summer, we add the Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Summer Meals program to provide children and their families with nutritious food. These programs join our list of year-round opportunities, such as Quality Control, where volunteers sort, inspect and repack food donations for distribution, and the Community Garden program.
As we discussed our summer recruiting efforts this year, we asked ourselves: What if our student volunteers go off to camp or take a job? What if all those families and corporate group volunteers go on vacation? Where will we find additional volunteers to support the summer programs?
Not to worry! As it happened, the Summer Meals program was nearly self-sufficient, and we were able to provide nutritious meals to children throughout the summer. Gratefully, we could turn our attention to the Farmers Market Nutrition Program. No one on the Volunteer Services team could have predicted the success we would have this year.
By the Numbers
More than 100 volunteers helped Tarrant Area Food Bank serve fresh fruits and vegetables to nearly 3,000 households in five separate locations. Three of the five locations also provided breakfast for the children who accompanied their parents and/or grandparents.
While the number of households served this year through the Farmers Market Nutrition Program was nearly identical to 2015, the number of volunteers increased by more than 65 percent! As part of TAFB’s Employee Engagement Experience program, several TAFB staff elected to spend part of their workday volunteering so that they could experience the distribution of food directly to the client firsthand.
The Community Garden program? A huge success! Nearly 300 volunteers helped us harvest more than 1,000 pounds of produce from the TAFB Learning Garden. The produce was distributed to WestAid, one of our Partner Agencies serving families in southwest Tarrant County. Year over year, this is a 67 percent increase in the amount of food and nearly a 100 percent increase in the number of volunteers—amazing!
Students and Families Spend Summer Serving
And what about Quality Control? The volunteer community continued to step up so that TAFB could provide wholesome food to families across North Texas—like the young, aspiring pro golfer who volunteered in Quality Control until it was time for summer tournament play. And Danny Le, a rising sophomore at Nolan Catholic High School who volunteered at least four days a week for several weeks in Quality Control. According to Danny, “The best part of my experience volunteering was meeting new people and making friends. I would definitely recommend others to come and help end hunger in our community by donating their time to volunteer at TAFB.”
We even had a group volunteer in Quality Control as part of a family reunion. Every year for the last 30 years, this Gaines family has gathered in a location that rotates from year to year, with members traveling from Florida, California, and Texas. Several years ago, the family elders decided to add a community service component to the gathering, and Tarrant Area Food Bank was the opportunity of choice this year.
You Can Help
We continue to be amazed at the support of the volunteer community in the DFW area. So many of our new volunteers tell us that they are surprised by the many different volunteer opportunities available at Tarrant Area Food Bank, and most of our volunteers tell us that they appreciate the ease and simplicity of the online scheduling system.
Summer is over now and the school year is officially underway. And guess what? We are expecting volunteer support to continue as we head into the fall.
Yep, it happens every year! Check out all of the many ways that you can volunteer and sign up today at tafb.org/volunteer.