Last week, I got my first opportunity to volunteer at a Greater Twin Cities United Way event as an intern. I attended the Feeding Who’s Hungry event at Land O’Lakes to take pictures and interview volunteers for the newsletter, in addition to volunteering. I was excited to practice my interviewing skills and take pictures on a camera that wasn’t my cellphone for the first time since I took photography my junior year of high school.
I got stationed at the snack pack station with PJ, my fellow intern. The volunteers were very efficient in making the snack packs. PJ and I could not make and label boxes fast enough. It was definitely the most stressful and sweatiest part of the morning.
It was powerful to see so many people from so many different companies and groups coming together to help families that rely on free or reduced lunch programs. Without this support, the children in those families might not have had their nutritional needs met over the summer.
The most meaningful part of the day for me was when I got to interview volunteers. I was expecting some hesitation from the people I asked to interview, but everyone I asked was more than happy to talk to me about their experience volunteering. I was blown away by people’s passion for United Way and their eagerness to help the community.
“There’s still a need that needs to be filled, and it’s important raise awareness so more people can help” said Brigit Fields, a program manager at Wells Fargo.
I got to follow up my experience at Feeding Who’s Hungry by attending Produce Day, an event put on by United Way community partner Pillsbury United Communities’ Waite House. 150 people attend Produce Day every two weeks to get fruits and vegetables for their families. Some of the kitchen kits that were assembled at Feeding Who’s Hungry were distributed at Produce Day.
“We are pushing so much for people to cook at home. Not only is that more cost effective, it’s healthier and promotes a strong family lifestyle, which is all things we would like to see in the neighborhood more. But many people lack the resources to do that at home, so to get these kitchen kits so that people can cook the food that they get at produce day is enormous,” said Food and Health Equity Coordinator Ethan Neal.
Waite House also encourages healthy eating by growing produce in a community garden behind the building. They serve a diverse group of people. Nearly one-half of their clients are Latino and one-fifth are Native American. The community garden lets them grow culturally relevant foods.
“For immigrant and refugee groups, people who have been in displacement for most their lives that have finally made it to Minneapolis, this something that can make them feel like they are at home,” said Neal.
I am very grateful for not only getting to volunteer with GTCUW, but also taking the opportunity to get a closer look into one of the innovative ways our partners are using to solve hunger in the community.
You can make an impact for families and children struggling with hunger in the Twin Cities. Find a volunteer project now.
Katherine Bogart is a summer intern at Greater Twin Cities United Way. An Edina native, Katherine is a junior at American University in Washington D.C., where she is majoring in communications, economics, law and government.