I first heard about the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma when I was in National Honors Society in high school. Every once and awhile, I would sign up to volunteer on a Saturday morning to help give back and, honestly, to earn NHS points. Still, I remember having fun with my friends as we packed boxes. Fast forward to the present day and here I am working as a marketing intern for the organization.
Ever since college, I knew that I wanted to work in the nonprofit industry. I wanted to feel like I helped people on a daily basis, even if I was just sitting in an office all day. I’ve always believed that everyone plays an important role in any organization—from the interns all the way to the CEO. People tend to forget this fact, but here at the Food Bank we embrace it.
This experience has taught me so much about the mission of the Food Bank and myself. I have seen up close how many sacks of food are sent out per day for our Summer Feeding Program, as well as the many people who come to our partner agencies for meals, like at the Grace Rescue Mission. By seeing the people we serve, I am able to put faces to our cause, which makes working here more meaningful.
By the end of my work days, I feel like I have helped people. Yes, I’m in the office all day, but like I said before that doesn’t mean I don’t help people. Some of us do our best work in the office, while others do their best work by helping stuff the backpacks for our Backpack Program, which last year helped 13,500 children that are chronically hungry. And others do their best work by getting out and volunteering. Without our volunteers, the organization wouldn’t be what it is today.
The Regional Food Bank has exceeded by expectations because every employee and volunteer works together to achieve our one goal: to stop hunger in Oklahoma.
I’m looking forward to the many experiences coming my way.
When I think of a food pantry, or the food closet, that staple of community engagement for so many churches and neighborhood organizations, I think of bags or boxes handed to a long line of hardy folks who have braved the cold or the heat to get the help they need to feed their families. Many are what are often tagged as the working poor – men and women who make barely enough to pay the rent, or to cover the cost of getting to and from a minimum-wage job, but not enough to buy a bag of apples or a fresh, cold watermelon to brighten up a hot summer day and feed their hungry kids.
The Food Bank provides food to hundreds of food pantries in communities across central and western Oklahoma. These pantries are run by folks as hard-working and resourceful as the families they serve. They wrote the book on being frugal and turning a little into a lot. For most pantries, handing out boxes or bags of food is fast and efficient and clients are thankful. But pantry personnel began to ask themselves what would happen if families could choose the food they want and need, rather than receive a pre-packed box. They realized the boxes might contain things already in their clients’ kitchens at home, or food they couldn’t eat because of medically restricted diets. The good food they worked so hard to provide might be wasted!
Many of the Food Bank’s partner food pantries are now blazing a new trail – setting up their pantries, big or small, so that clients can shop for the food they take home. Not only is food no longer wasted, but clients are leaving with huge smiles, expressing their thanks for the opportunity to shop in a dignified, respectful atmosphere.
One of the first folks to come through such a pantry was a man in his early forties. He had multiple health problems and could no longer work; he’d applied for disability but that was still pending approval and he was the sole caregiver for his mother, who was also ill. He had been to food pantries in the past and said he was grateful for their help – but the truth was – most of the items he received he was unable to eat due to his health condition. He was amazed that a volunteer took the time to help him read the labels and find foods that were low in sodium and fit his restricted diet.
Another pantry recently reported clients’ excitement that they could choose food their kids would eat, or food they knew how to cook! One client was especially happy. Because she didn’t have teeth, she couldn’t always eat what was given to her. Now she was thrilled choose the food that was easy for her to eat. A pantry reported that a client got back out of her car after loading her groceries, threw her arms around the neck of the pantry director and hugged her, telling her what a wonderful place this pantry was and how much it meant to be able to pick out her own groceries.
It’s rare when something happens that is a win for everyone involved. A pantry that provides the clients with a choice of food is one of those rare opportunities. Less food is wasted because folks don’t take what they know they won’t eat, and clients experience the positive effect on their self-esteem when given the freedom to choose.
Vice President of Community Initiatives
I took a minute to sit down and talk to the Big Truck Tacos owners about tomorrow’s Volunteer Night. Check out this clip, and join us tomorrow night!
2:11 PM on Monday, July 12th, 2010No Comments
“I’m checking you in Connie,” and I looked over as my supervisor Natalie was logging me in and updating my status on Facebook/Foursquare. I cackled to myself knowing that my Facebook status would inform my friends that I was attending a meeting with the OKC Thunder; jealous reactions would surely follow.
Entering the OKC Thunder offices I had no idea what to expect, so naturally I made up a scenario in my mind. Perhaps I would see a board room populated by serious faces and even more serious suits. Or maybe the meeting would be held on a basketball court at the 3-point line with Rumble reading off the agenda, assuming he even speaks at all. Blame it on my overactive imagination for making up such ridiculous ideas.
So on to the meatier stuff, the actual meeting. We were there to sort out the details for upcoming events for food drives and volunteer events, which at a time like this, is much needed given the fact that the Regional Food Bank is now sorting and packing an additional 4.2 million pounds of food to be shipped out by the end of September. The Food Bank values its partnerships and it is due to the organization’s ability to cultivate relationships with other businesses that has allowed it to survive for 30 years. Indeed, no man is an island could be our internal organizational mantra, if we even had such a thing.
Community partnerships are something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Even I didn’t realize how much the Food Bank relied on its connections with other community developers until during the meeting. Actually I didn’t even realize the Thunder had a community relations department, hence the need for me to hope that our meeting would be lead by a man in a bison outfit.
After the meeting, I realized how much working with the community leaders like the Thunder can help bring attention to the issue of hunger – an issue that’s often invisible. It’s important to have community leaders who are passionate and supportive of a cause. They can communicate to a potentially new audience and help foster the passion for cause that’s so fundamental to an organization like the Food Bank.
Even though we never set foot on the 3-point line, and Rumble didn’t show up to the meeting, it was a great experience. Getting the chance to go behind the scenes and see how everything works beyond what we see on the court is a rare opportunity, and it’s been one of the many benefits I’ve enjoyed during my internship so far. Most importantly, I was able to meet another group of hard working individuals who were dedicated to the fight against hunger.
Ed Kelley, Editor at The Oklahoman, talks about food shortages and the summer of hunger in Oklahoma. Watch the video below.
3:05 PM on Monday, June 21st, 2010No Comments
A $25,000 grant award from Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger will fund statewide public policy and advocacy efforts this year! Through this grant, we will work to educate local and national political leaders, as well as the charitable community, in an effort to reduce hunger in Oklahoma.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s objectives include: recruiting partner agencies to engage with elected officials about hunger and its solutions; involving the Regional Food Bank’s Board of Directors in matters of public policy impacting the organization’s mission; and engaging 1,000 people to advocate on behalf of the Regional Food Bank and its mission.
We urge you to become an advocate today by signing up for information about hunger and nutrition issues on our website!
In an effort to help meet the increased demand for food, the Inasmuch Foundation presented the Food Bank with a generous $500,000 emergency assistance grant to help feed hungry Oklahomans.
Bob Ross, president and CEO of Inasmuch Foundation, said he hopes this grant will help create some stability for our most disadvantaged citizens. Since their first gift in December 1992, the Inasmuch Foundation has committed more than $2 million to the cause.
This grant couldn’t have come at a better time. We are distributing more food than any other time in the history of the org; we distributed more than three million pounds of food in April – which is a 29 percent increase over the same time a year ago.
Thank you so much to the Inasmuch Foundation for your continued commitment to fighting hunger in Oklahoma!
I’ve just finished my first week at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma as the new Marketing Intern, and I have to admit my time so far has been a blur. Besides the introductions and playing the name game with my new co-workers, my first day centered on orientation and familiarizing myself with the daily ins and outs of the organization. Those unfamiliar with the Food Bank would likely assume the orientation was brief since many people imagine the Food Bank to be a tiny soup kitchen situated in a forgotten old building. They would, however, be wrong; a tour of the Food Bank shows the immensity of the organization and its ability to serve thousands of Oklahomans facing hunger issues each day. By the end of a tour, one wonders how such an operation is run. There’s an intricate network of people who work daily to keep the Food Bank running and most people don’t see it or even know it’s there. Early into my orientation one thing became clear: despite all the different tasks that had to be completed day after day, everyone was insanely passionate about their job.
Most of the departments were unknown to me, but despite being unfamiliar to everything happening behind the scenes, I do have a history with the Food Bank. It goes back to my teenage, pimply and awkward years – only just getting used to wearing contacts instead of my unfashionable glasses. Most of those awkward years were spent with my nose crammed into books or sitting in classrooms for hours during the school day only to return again for another beating, absorbing as much information as possible for exams. Yes, I spent most of my time nerding away as much as possible and to solidify my uncoolness, I joined the after school organization, Key Club. Admittedly, I joined not only to be with my friends, but also because I lacked the coordination and enthusiasm required for the cheerleading squad. On many weekends, instead of sleeping in or waking up to watch MTV, I drove myself to the Food Bank to volunteer for Key Club. My friends and I became very familiar with all the sights (skyscraper tall shelves filled with millions of pounds of food) and smells (to this day I can’t quite describe it) of the warehouse. I remember we would compete to see who could pack the most food the quickest or build the tallest stack of food. Perhaps they were infantile games, but they are part of my fondest memories of high school.
I volunteered here in the last year of high school and it’s odd that now, at the end of yet another milestone, the end of my college career, I find myself here yet again. This can only confirm what is probably a silly belief I hold, that all things come in circles, we always end up in the same place where we began. Not everything is the same, most of my friends are gone now, finding jobs, finding the perfect grad school, or just finding themselves. And now that I find myself here again I will hopefully create new memories, meeting new people and getting the chance to make the most of my experience at a place that does so much for everyone involved. The Food Bank has changed a little. The programs have expanded as well as the building itself and although the volunteer center is bigger, it’s still the same place – an organization dedicated to fulfilling its mission and promise to the community.
- By Connnie Lam, Marketing Intern
During the season finale of the television show The Biggest Loser, General Mills pledged that one can of Progresso Soup or one can of Green Giant vegetables will be donated to Feeding America, for every pound pledged to the Pound For Pound Challenge. Nationwide, Food Banks will receive nearly 5.9 million cans of product.
Today, General Mills donated a truckload of Green Giant Sweet Peas and Cut Green Beans to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, which will help provide 27,620 meals to hungry Oklahomans this summer!!
Additionally, for every pound pledged at pfpchallenge.com, the Pound For Pound Challenge will donate 14 cents to Feeding America, who will then distribute the donations to Food Banks across the country, including the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. So far, Oklahomans have pledged to lose nearly 50,500 pounds in the Pound for Pound Challenge. The Pound For Pound Challenge, sponsored by The Biggest Loser, Feeding America, General Mills, Subway, 24 Hour Fitness and The Kroger Co., is designed to help deliver millions of pounds of groceries to local food banks across the U.S.
You can still pledge to lose weight until June 30, which in turn will raise donations for the Regional Food Bank.
1:57 PM on Wednesday, June 9th, 2010No Comments
In response to a call for donations by the 2010 Oklahoma Speaker’s Ball, Tyson Foods delivered more than 31,000 pounds of much-needed protein to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma today. The donation will provide 23,875 meals to the hungry in 53 central and western counties.
Since 2000, Tyson Foods has been a leader in the fight against hunger. The company is actively engaged in food-donation events and fund-raising activities to benefit those in need. The protein given by Tyson today brings the company’s total in-kind donations since 2000 to more than 75 million pounds. This milestone equates to more than 296 million meals donated to food banks and agencies serving local communities around the country. Last year alone, Tyson donated nearly eight million pounds of protein to Feeding America. For more information on Tyson’s fight against hunger, visit hungerrelief.tyson.com/.
This morning, the Food Bank’s Executive Director Rodney Bivens, Tyson Foods representative John Ward, and Oklahoma Speaker of the House Chris Benge came together for the arrival of Tyson truck.