Happy New Year! I’m excited to enter our third (!) year of monthly DE volunteer opportunities. As I mentioned previously, based on the feedback from the survey many credit union colleagues completed last year, I’m changing the focus for 2017.
Therefore, 2017 will be all about helping the hungry around Madison. I chose that for a few reasons:
- Based on survey responses and conversations, hunger and working in food pantries and food banks were the most desired and popular opportunities to volunteer, as well as working directly with people. It’s always an amazing, rewarding and humbling experience.
- Also, preparing food for people at Gilda’s Club and Ronald McDonald House rose to the top. Again, food is the theme here. With all of these, especially the last two, intersect with the issue of health nicely.
- Hunger (or “food insecurity”) is a big issue in Madison. For example, 50% of Madison public school students get free or reduced price lunch. Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap has determined that 11.8% of all people and 17.5% children are food insecure in Dane County.
We kicked things off by helping out (again) at the large and busy St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, which operates like a compact grocery store to serve between 60 and 160 families per day five days a week. Our customer-choice model of operation honors the dignity of clients and all involved in the distribution of free food to people who need it. This model also helps minimize waste and accommodates ethnic preferences by allowing clients to use “points” to shop for food their families prefer and will eat. Serving all Dane County ZIP Codes, their pantry annually gives away food valued at nearly $1.5 million to local households struggling with poverty. In a given year, they help local households with nutrition assistance over 63,000 times, including 27,000+ instances in which they help the children of the families they assist.
For this activity, we hosted clients around the pantry, some of which had been waiting hours to get food. The pantry staff was very appreciative that we were all there to help since they were really busy (the clients were too – even moreso)! As usual, it was an amazing experience and always a “Mad DE Group” volunteer favorite.
(Apologies to Megan Balogh & Lois Haag not pictured above, but also were there to volunteer – we started as soon as we “clocked in”!)