Cougs give back by volunteering at food bank

Approximately 70 volunteers from the Washington State University Vancouver community arrived at the Clark County Food Bank last Tuesday to repackage bulk donations into family-sized portions for the community.

“Volunteers are the heartbeat of our organization,” said Marlene Ashworth, volunteer coordinator for the food bank.

The volunteers comprised alumni, students, faculty and friends of the community that came together to support the food bank’s mission to fight hunger.

Cougs in the Community is an event organized by WSU Vancouver’s alumni relations office. This department is responsible for alumni relations and awarding student scholarships.

With approximately 12,000 alumni living in the Portland-Vancouver metro area, the alumni office reaches out to former students so that they remain connected with the school.

SueAnn McWatters, program coordinator of the alumni office, said “There is really good Cougar spirit. They don’t just graduate, they come back and keep that sense of community they developed through school.”

That community recently helped repackage 16,000 pounds of food during the Cougs in the Community event. The volunteer work allows the food bank to distribute 13,000 meals to the community.

Volunteers were greeted with free pizza donated by Blind Onion Pizza and Pub owner Gene Schwendiman. They then sat through a tutorial on warehouse safety, were given gloves and hairnets and then got to work.

Smiles and laughter were heard as people chatted while working. Volunteers of all ages were present, from very young children to retirees. All in attendance were committed to the food bank’s goals of fighting hunger.

Volunteers at Clark County Food Bank Photo Credit: Megan Peaker

Volunteers at Clark County Food Bank Photo Credit: Megan Peaker

The county food bank deals with more than just food donations, however. They offer many other programs through their expanding organization.

Food bank director Alan Hamilton said that “They [volunteers] can be proud, they can say that they didn’t just graduate, they helped their community.” He said that food bank volunteers do not just help, but rather they are the lifeblood of the organization.

Volunteers make up most of the food bank staff. From secretaries to warehouse and project coordinators, volunteers bring a drive to the organization that keeps it alive.

The food bank’s programs include a nutrition education program, connections with local farms, Fresh Alliance, Hunger Hero and Hunger Alliance.

The nutrition education program aims to fight hunger at its root cause. This is accomplished by providing hand on workshops to community members on proper nutrition and cooking healthy, filling meals.

The food bank also partners with local farms to produce hardy food for battling hunger. The farmers grow and donate fresh, healthy produce for families in need.

Fresh Alliance is an agreement with 24 local produce sellers that recover food from grocery stores. This program salvages about 1.5 million pounds of food that would otherwise be thrown away and provides food resources for the county’s food bank.

Hunger Hero and Hunger Alliance are cash donation programs for individuals and businesses. The cash donations support things like trucking in donations from places such as Northwest Produce. For around $200, Clark County Food Bank can receive 25-30 thousand pounds of produce.

Clark County Food Bank uses these programs to distribute over six million pounds of food per year. That is equivalent to about four million meals that service 30,000 people, of which 39% are kids under the age of 18. Furthermore, 11,000 emergency food boxes are provided for families in the community per month.

To learn more or get involved with Clark County Food Bank, visit http://www.clarcountyfoodbank.org.

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