During winter break, my kids and I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Regional Food Bank’s Moore Food & Resource Center, which is one of dozen or so client-choice pantries in the state. The center is unique in that people in need can shop for exactly what they need, instead of receiving a set box of food. They are also able to provide greater access to perishable foods, like eggs, bread and fresh fruits and vegetables, because of the grocery store setting.
This model is fairly new in Oklahoma. The Moore Food & Resource Center was the first client-choice pantry opened by the Regional Food Bank. They were originally meant to temporarily operate to meet the needs of the Moore community after the tornado in 2013, but because of the success of the program they decided to keep the center open.
According to officials, in 2018, the Moore Food & Resource Center provided food assistance to 21,139 households, or about the equivalent of 1.5 million meals. The Food Bank has opened several more client-choice pantries around the state and maintaining an operation of this magnitude is no easy task. They need a wealth of volunteers, which is where families like mine can join the story.
We decided to volunteer with our scout troop to have something positive to do over winter break, but during our experience, I learned a few surprising things.
- The Oklahoma Standard goes deeper than I imagined. The network of community connections helping in our community is vast! It was very eye opening to see how many organizations are involved in the work being done at the Food Bank. Local groceries stores, restaurants and other organizations donate an incredible about of food to help fill the shelves. Businesses, community groups and individuals provide the man-power needed to sort and stock. And, in return, the Food Bank does its part to give back, recycling, reusing and reducing as much as possible. They even compost fruits and vegetables past their prime. It was inspiring to see the thought and care put into making a positive impact at so many levels.
- My kids can work really hard! I am sure I am not alone with the typical grumbling and gawking at the request of household chores. But, with a sense of purpose, kids can having fun working really hard. Shocking, I know! (I kid, sort of…) We spent three hours at the center and, during that time, our group did a lot of “grown-up” work. I really appreciated that the experience allowed my kids to be hands-on. We washed crates, sorted shipments, stocked shelves and helped bagged groceries. And the most magical moment of it all was when they asked to do it again.
- January is one of the lowest months for volunteerism. On the heels of a busy holiday season, we all sort of check out, I guess. Or maybe its the valley after the peak outpouring during the holidays. But like any other operation, the work must continue. Organizations like the Regional Food Bank rely on people like you and I to be able to meet the needs of our community. So I encourage your family to find a cause you are passion about and see how you can make a difference. If you need some inspiring ideas of ways to help, check out this list of opportunities available to families in the OKC metro area. I’d love to hear about your family’s experience volunteering. Feel free to share in the comment section below!
About the author: Born and raised in the Oklahoma City metro and a graduate of the Gaylord College of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, Lindsay Cuomo has worked for MetroFamily since 2014 covering local stories, people and events. Lindsay is a mom to three school-aged boys and calls Moore, Oklahoma home.