BFN Volunteers Create A Culture of Dignity

Food is a universal need, and everyone has a right to it. Not only is food necessary for optimal health, but it is also how we express our individuality and culture. Food is a source of celebration, joy, and connection. We believe shame should never be associated with food and one’s access to it–that’s why we design our pantries to be a safe and empowering environment for our community members.

Our 235 caring volunteers are integral to building and nurturing this welcoming space. Their skills and empathy create a non-stigmatizing environment where individuals can feel comfortable while receiving assistance. As frontline workers for the BFN mission, our volunteers are the familiar faces our returning members look forward to seeing. While checking our members in at the intake table, bagging their groceries, or restocking the pantry line, volunteers build relationships and connections with our community.

“Though our connections to members are often regular but brief and limited, the fact that they are about food often imbues them with a special meaning. Many times, we make a very sweet connection with members over their delight in finding a particular food on the line, a shared fondness for something on offer, or an opportunity to exchange recipes. Members have helped us identify some unfamiliar vegetables and have shared exactly how our chicken and potatoes became their Thanksgiving dinner.”

-Elizabeth Werter, Lead Pantry Volunteer

Elsa Pong Esch volunteers at the Albany High School Neighborhood Pantry. Elsa leverages their fluency in Cantonese and practices their Mandarin and Spanish to build relationships with regular pantry members. They feel this exchange is often very welcome and sees people ‘light up’ when they greet them. 

Above all, the sense of purpose and community motivates many BFN volunteers to keep giving back.

“Being retired, it is so valuable to me to have interactions with people – volunteers, staff, and members,” shares volunteer Robert Toren. “I think that getting food to people is a particularly fulfilling experience…I want to find a way to give back for as long as I can. I tell my friends that before I retired, I never believed that volunteering would be fun and give me a social life, but it really does.” 

BFN celebrates and appreciates the contributions of our volunteers serving in all organization capacities. Together, BFN volunteers clocked 17,132 hours over the last year–equivalent to 8.24 full-time staff members, valued at $609,000!

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