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A “Day On” With the University District Food Bank

Written by Annya Pintak, Outreach Manager
 On Monday January 16, I had the privilege of spending Martin Luther King Jr. Day volunteering with our AmeriCorps Team as part of United Way of King County’s MLK Day of Service. Our team made it a day ON instead of a day off and participated in a volunteer service project in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ll admit that making volunteer plans for the day of service was a bit of a challenge this year. We initially intended to volunteer for a wildlife restoration project, but the frozen ground cancelled our original plans! At the last minute, I reached out to one of our community partners, Joe Gruber, Executive Director of the University District Food Bank, to see if there was a possibility we could volunteer at the food bank. It turned out that the food bank already had a team of volunteers signed up to spend the day volunteering for MLK Day of Service, but Joe suggested that our team could hold a food drive at local grocery stores and collect items for donations.
Before we can officially conduct the food drive though, Joe mentioned that we had to reach out to the grocery stores for permission and suggested stores in the University District area that have supported these efforts in the past. Luckily, we received permission from Trader Joe’s and QFC in the University Village to set up food drives at their stores, and they were incredibly supportive of our presence there. During the day of service, we set up large bins by the entrance and handed out flyers with a list of donation items to customers as they entered the store. The list included items that the University District Food Bank needed additional assistance in collecting such as baby diapers, soymilk, pasta, bars of soap, cereal, peanut butter, and more.

No one on the team—including myself—had conducted a food drive before, and we had no idea what to expect. I personally anticipated that folks would not be very interested in speaking to us or taking a list of suggested items to donate, but to our surprise we had a lot of interest! Folks were eager to take a flyer and we had many customers come out after their shopping trips with one to two full bags of items. We also noticed many parents with younger children participating in the donation and many of them donated large boxes of baby diapers. We even had a couple of folks mention to us that they were familiar with the University District Food Bank, and we had one gentleman comment that he felt very comfortable accessing the food bank as it was set up similarly to a grocery store. After we completed collecting donations, our team met back at the food bank to sort through the donations together. Our AmeriCorps team is typically at the food bank once a week educating clients on the SNAP (food stamps) program, so it was great for us to help with and experience the operational side of the food bank.

For only four hours of work, our team was able to collect around 450 lbs. of food! It was incredibly uplifting to spend half of the day with the AmeriCorps team and to experience conducting a food drive for the first time together. I am grateful to have a team who is passionate about serving the community, even on a day off!

Tags: AmeriCorps   food drive   MLK day of service   United Way of King County   University District Food Bank   

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