My experience as an Intern

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.

Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson is a recent graduate of Oklahoma State University and is the current marketing intern at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
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Freedom of Choice

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.

Cari Ogden
Vice President of Community Initiatives

Shae Kennedy

Shae Kennedy

Shae Kennedy is the eCommunications Manager at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Shae graduated from Oklahoma State University in 2010 with a bachelors degree in Agriculutral Communications.
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We are excited to announce that CBS’s Greatest America Dog winner Travis Brorsen and his dog Presley will pay a visit to Booker T. Washington Kids Cafe in Enid and the Urban Mission Kids Cafe in Oklahoma City this month!

Our Kids Cafe program provides an after-school safe haven for 850 at-risk youth by providing mentoring, tutoring and food.

Following his win on Greatest American Dog, Brorsen developed a book and DVD series called Adventures with Travis and Presley, which helps children to improve their manners. Adventures with Travis and Presley will come to life at Kids Cafe and educate children on manners when the pair visits the site.

After the program, the lessons of Adventures with Travis and Presley will be incorporated into all 16 of the Regional Food Bank’s Kids Cafe sites in central and western Oklahoma. The program has been shown to improve grades and behavior, while teaching the importance of eating healthy meals.

Big thank you to Travis & Presley for taking time to visit these kids and for being a member of our Celebrity Council! Check back later on for video from the event!

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright is the Marketing Coordinator at the Regional Food Bank. Natalie manages social media for the organization. Connect with her on Twitter (@rfbo) and Facebook!
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Join us on April 13 for the MIO “Eat Up”!

April is MIO month! The Made In Oklahoma Coalition has challenged shoppers to purchase 1 million rolls of paper towels to benefit Food 4 Kids. MIO paper towels are made from recycled material, and have already helped to raised $36,000 for Food 4 Kids in Oklahoma. Participating retailers include Walmart, Crest, Homeland, Buy For Less and many many others!

Come out to the Eat Up event on April 13 to show your support!

Food will be served up by Good Egg Dining Group, a member of the MIO Coalition.

Music by DJ Dan from Oklahoma City Party Patrol.

Special Guests:
Miss America 2007 Lauren Nelson Faram
Project Runway’s Johnathan Kayne
State Senator Andrew Rice

The first 100 guests will get a special MIO goodie bag!

Tweet live from the event using the #MIOtwEATup hashtag for your chance to land on a Lamar digital billboard!

Hope to see you there!

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright is the Marketing Coordinator at the Regional Food Bank. Natalie manages social media for the organization. Connect with her on Twitter (@rfbo) and Facebook!
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The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is one of the few food banks in the nation that utilizes an aquaponic system. On Saturday, the Urban Harvest program offered class to teach the community how to build and maintain the system in their own backyard.  Aquaponics is a system of growing fish and edible plants in a closed, circulating system. It creates a bio-system in which fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish.

The Regional Food Bank has been experimenting with two different aquaponics systems since 2006 and has had great results. The current system consists of a tank that can hold up to 800 tilapia, connected to two 50-feet-long floating grows beds that accommodate up to 800 plant units. Typically, lettuce grows to harvest size in five weeks in this system. The system can be smaller or larger, based on needs and goals.

Tilapia is the fish of choice for most growers as they grow from fingerling to 1.5 pounds in as little as nine months.  The leafy greens and herbs grow quickly, producing nutritious food faster than field growing.

The class, which was in such high demand that a waiting list was created, consisted of 30 students who worked to construct a “low-tech” aquaponic system that could be adapted to home or small business with a relatively small financial investment. The system will be used as the Urban Harvest nursery for baby tilapia.

More photos from the aquaponics class on Flickr!

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards

Bruce Edwards is the Director of the Urban Harvest program, an urban agricultural program of the Regional Food Bank that works to increase food security by making fresh fruits and vegetables available to hungry Oklahomans.
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On Saturday, Walmart Supercenter employees sorted 93,425 pounds of food at the Food Bank! In addition to their volunteer time, Walmart donates $500 for every five associates that volunteers 5 hours of time to the Food Bank, so the effort will also result in a donation of nearly $15,000 through their Volunteering Always Pays program.

View more photos on Flickr.

Big thank you to Walmart and all their employees for helping to fight hunger in Oklahoma!!

Jamie Treadaway

Jamie Treadaway

Jamie Treadaway is the Volunteer Recruitment AmeriCorps Member at the Regional Food Bank. Contact Jamie at 405-600-3154 or jtreadaway@regionalfoodbank.org to sign up to volunteer!
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