United Way’s Young Philanthropist Society(YPS) and Tocqueville Society joined together to volunteer at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, one of United Way’s partner agencies.
More than 30 volunteers packed food for the Food Bank’s Mobile Pantry and Weekender Backpack programs. The Mobile Pantry program provides a variety of food items to areas commonly referred to as “food deserts,” which lack easy access to nutritious and fresh food. The Weekender Backpack program provides children with a five-pound bag of nutritious food to take home over the weekend and holidays, when they might otherwise go hungry.
“We’re delighted to host volunteers from United Way who are helping us pack weekend meal kits for children who rely upon free meals at school,” said Kathryn Strickland, the executive director of the Community Food Bank. “We’ll deliver them on Friday so that they’ll have access to food over the weekend and can arrive at school on Mondays ready to learn without the distraction of hunger.”
The volunteers packed 840 weekender backpacks, totaling 4,200 pounds of food. They also packed 3270 meals for the Mobile Pantry boxes, totaling 3,925 pounds of food.
YPS and the Tocqueville Society are both leadership giving societies at United Way. YPS is a group of young professionals who give $1,000 or more annually to United Way, while the Tocqueville Society members give $10,000 or more.
“I’ve been involved with United Way for a long time, and it’s nice to have opportunities to do something that’s meaningful and not just fundraising or programmatic-related, just something more engaging with the organization,” said Robert Aland, a Tocqueville Society member and president of the Birmingham market of the National Bank of Commerce, who was volunteering with his wife Kelly.
Aland is also part of the Bold Goals initiative, a community-based coalition in Central Alabama that aims to align efforts and address disparities in the fields of education, health and financial stability.
“This event fits very well with the health aspect [of Bold Goals]. We have a lot of food deserts and hunger in this city. Kids who aren’t fed appropriately can’t learn in school, which obviously affects education,” Aland said. “So the Community Food Bank hits very close to the mission of the Bold Goals initiative, which is very inspiring to me.”
Today, one in four children in Central Alabama face food insecurity. Many of these children are eligible for free or reduced lunch while in school but may not have access to regular meals once they go home. The Weekender Backpack program was created in response to this need.
“The Food Bank is responsible for over 11 million meals a year and we could not accomplish this without volunteer support,” Strickland said. “So having a team of 30 here today packing the weekend meal kits, packing the food boxes for us is really vital for us to continue to be able to serve on a daily basis.”
Also volunteering at the event was YPS member Maggie McDonald, who works at YWCA, another United Way partner agency.
“I enjoy giving back to the community. Working alongside new friends and people I’ve known for a long time while doing something good for the community is a great way to spend my time,” McDonald says. “These bags that we are preparing today, some of them will go home this weekend with children that are at the YWCA right now. So this is benefiting those that I see on a daily basis too, which is a nice connection.”
To learn more about the United Way leadership giving groups such as YPS and the Tocqueville Society, visit uwca.org/campaign-center/leadership-giving-societies/
The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama always needs more volunteers to help address food insecurity in the 12 Alabama counties it serves. If you would like to learn more about the agency and how you can help, visit feedingal.org or contact volunteer coordinator Melvin Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org