At the start of the pandemic, a little over a year ago, the Food Bank faced an unprecedented challenge. The Food Bank saw over 1,500 volunteers and dozens of businesses cancel their volunteer shifts. The Food Bank also saw a spike in demand that had never been seen before, a demand that almost doubled overnight. Since then, the Food Bank has also seen an unprecedented amount of support from the San Diego community. Volunteers have stepped up to support to the Food Bank’s mission and collectively they have volunteered more than 97,300 hours and we have seen 38,540 volunteer visits*.
Volunteers are the backbone of our operations and an integral part in helping the Food Bank feed more than 600,000 people across San Diego County every single month. Both the San Diego Food Bank and our North County Food Bank chapter, offer volunteer shifts in the morning, afternoon, and evening to accommodate volunteer schedules. Our volunteers help pack and sort fresh produce, assemble food packages for our many hunger-relief programs, and help distribute food at our drive-thru food pantry sites.
“My kids have grown up volunteering here.” – Vanessa Pool
A volunteer shift can be labor-intensive, which makes it more impressive that we can count on many volunteers who find time and energy to sign up for an evening shift, after a long day’s work. Vanessa Pool is one of these volunteers, who fell in love with giving back to her community after her first volunteer shift at the Food Bank 12 years ago. Vanessa’s decade-long volunteer journey consists of monthly volunteer shifts with the help of her family and UC San Diego’s Volunteer50 initiative.
The Food Bank virtually spoke with Vanessa to reflect on her decade of volunteering. Here is what she had to say.
Food Bank: Why did you choose to volunteer at the Food Bank?
Vanessa Pool: I love to volunteer with my family and my work colleagues! It feels so good to know that we are helping to alleviate hunger in San Diego, especially now, when the need is so great. UCSD has been supportive of the Food Bank and there are many dedicated staff who come out every month and have done so for years.
SDFB: What keeps you coming back after all these years?
VP: Sometimes I cannot believe that I started volunteering and organizing a monthly group from UCSD over 12 years ago. My kids have grown up volunteering here – and now we also volunteer at a food pantry in Chula Vista served by the Food Bank so we see the whole process. The Food Bank does an amazing job serving so many people – and not just with shelf-stable foods, but also fresh produce and even diapers. People need these basic needs met in order to look for work, take care of their families, and succeed in school. We all need a helping hand sometimes and I am glad I can give of my time and energy in this way.
SDFB: What have you learned about the Food Bank and the need in our communities throughout your time volunteering?
VP: I have learned that food insecurity is a very widespread problem – and one that may not always be obvious.
SDFB: What would you say to those that are thinking about volunteering?
VP: The Food Bank makes it so easy to volunteer! You just need to bring yourself. Sometimes, I think I will be too tired after work, or feel like I may be too busy, but I come anyway and am always glad that I did.
Volunteers Make a Difference in People’s Lives
The Food Bank celebrates volunteers like Vanessa who make a direct impact in the lives of people across San Diego. We could not carry out the important work in the community without the support of our dedicated volunteers.
The need for food assistance as a result of the pandemic will continue for years to come and so will the need for volunteers. To begin your volunteer journey at the Food Bank and to find a shift that works with your schedule, visit SanDiegoFoodBank.org/Volunteer and click the “Register Now” button
*These statistics reflect the number of recorded volunteer hours and visits from 3/12/2020 to 3/31/2021.