Food banks need volunteer helpers

Brenna Swift, The Union Democrat

The Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency Food Bank in Jamestown urgently needs more volunteers, and not just for the holidays, according to Director Lee Kimball.

Demand for the donated food at the ATCAA Food Bank has reached an all-time high and will continue into next year. The bank already has more than 1,000 volunteers, and 24 responded to Kimball's last call for help.

But there are about 40 more "critical" positions to fill immediately, she said. Ten of those positions would involve driving shipments of food to the smaller food banks and pantries that ATCAA helps serve, such as the Interfaith Food Bank in Sonora and Jackson.

Other volunteers are needed for distributing food at ATCAA's own distribution sites. Among its many programs are one that provides food to children, one that targets seniors, and another that provides fresh produce.

A few of the other positions entail clerical work or coordinating teams of other volunteers. Volunteers with good "people skills" and customer service skills are needed, as well as warehouse volunteers.

The food bank is also seeking more donated food so that it starts the year capable of withstanding heightened demand.

Kimball said the increased need in the community is likely due to higher fuel prices, which make food more expensive and take up a larger share of household budgets.

She is concerned that the looming "fiscal cliff" will make food unaffordable for more families, even as the holiday boost to donations and volunteerism subsides.

"Hunger isn't just a holiday event," Kimball said.

The ATCAA Food Bank covers Tuolumne, Amador and parts of Mariposa counties, according to operations manager Anthony Martinez. It supplies about 30 active food pantries in the area.

It is seeking healthy food such as stews and soups, Kimball said.

Peanut butter, canned tuna and baking items such as Bisquick and pancake mix are other examples of items needed.

The Resource Connection Food Bank in San Andreas needs volunteers too, and director Jeannie Hayward said the level of demand for its services is also at an all-time high.

It serves about 1,000 more families a month now than it did in pre-recession 2008.

Its "Santa's Express" event is serving 1,056 families, or 8.6 percent of Calaveras County's population by Hayward's estimate.

The Resource Connection's needs for donated items are similar to the ATCAA Food Bank's - healthy items and foods with protein.

For more information on donating or volunteering at the ATCAA Food Bank, call the food bank at 984-3960.

Prospective volunteers must fill out an application and undergo a short orientation session. The food bank is open from9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays, though volunteers often work different hours.

For more information on volunteering at the Resource Connection Food Bank or making donations, call 754-1257.

The Union Democrat
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