Volunteers from United Way’s Young Philanthropist Society (YPS) and Tocqueville Society joined together at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, a United Way partner agency, to help combat the food crisis in their community.
More than 30 volunteers packed food for the Food Bank’s Weekender Backpack program and the Mobile Pantry. The Weekender Backpack program provides children with a five-pound bag of healthy food to take home over the weekend and on holidays, when they might otherwise go without a meal. The Mobile Pantry program provides a wide selection of food to areas commonly referred to as “food deserts,” which lack easy access to nutritious and fresh food.
“More and more, we’re providing food to hardworking families who simply cannot afford food and other very basic needs,” lamented Kathryn Strickland, executive director of the food bank. “We rely upon about 2,000 volunteers a year to inspect the food that goes to families who use our community programs—it’s a huge undertaking.”
The volunteers packed 336 backpacks, totaling 1,400 pounds of food. They also packed 206 Mobile Pantry boxes, totaling 5,150 pounds of food. Altogether this will provide over 5,400 meals for Central Alabamians in need, working toward that bold goal of eradicating the causes of food insecurity.
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, whereas the Tocqueville Society members give $10,000 or more.
“Events like this connect intergenerational groups of the United Way family to increase the organized capacity of dedicated volunteers from our leadership societies,” said President and CEO, Drew Langloh. “These people care deeply about their community, and back that up by donating their time and money to causes that make major strides toward a better Birmingham.”
The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama was founded in 1982, after a staff member at United Way learned about the world’s first food bank. John van Hengel founded St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, Arizona in 1967, and later went on to found the organization known today as Feeding America. United Way invited leadership from St. Mary’s to help create our local food bank, creating an important collaborative connection with United Way from the beginning.
“United Way has a history of collaborating with community partners to engage local leadership in creating a legacy of change,” said Langloh. “There’s a stereotype that older generations donate their money and younger generations donate their time—our affinity group members know the importance of both.”
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.
“Last year we took a bold step to expand our mission from an exclusive focus on feeding those in need to now also address hunger’s root causes and reduce the number of people who rely on the food bank,” said Strickland. Weekender Backpacks and the Mobile Food Pantry help families fill in the gaps while that mission takes effect.
Also volunteering at the event was YPS member Jackson Hill IV, working for the Bradley law firm as a litigator, representing construction and financial service industry clients. Hill was present at the inaugural YPS and Tocqueville event with Community Food Bank.
“It’s so important to invest in the future of Central Alabama,” said Hill. “It’s great to meet colleagues and corporate leaders at volunteer events, and later run into them during the course of your workplace campaign with United Way. All of us love to give back to the community and see where our dollars go when we support great agencies like the Community Food Bank.”
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/