NEWS

Community Food Bank: Food security, with dignity, for all Eastern Oklahoma

Kathryn SwanJ-C Correspondent
Community Food Bank: Food security, with dignity, for all Eastern Oklahoma

This is the second in a series of articles about the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. Located at 1304 North Kenosha in Tulsa, visitors may think they are on a college campus. The well-maintained distribution center, at the intersection of Pine and North Peoria, is in the Lansing Business Park.

A large farm orchard mural is the focal point of the spacious foyer. The painting cleverly incorporates corporate and individual donors with labels on the overflowing peach and apple crates. Adjacent to the mural, a gigantic fork attests to the food pantry’s purpose. A thousand flowing origami cranes, created by longtime Food Bank supporter Stacey Craig, represent one simple wish — for everyone to have enough wholesome, nutritious food and the knowledge to prepare it. Towering over the massive entry is the Food Bank’s motto, “Fighting hunger, Feeding hope, Food security, with dignity, for all Eastern Oklahoma.”

Aside from the offices and volunteer break rooms is a massive 3 million square foot warehouse. This distribution facility has the capacity to handle 21 million pounds of food a year. A staff of 60 is assisted by a tremendous volunteer base. Currently, 12,000+ volunteers donate 46,000 hours each year to help provide food to hundreds of thousands of hungry Oklahomans.

Volunteer Coordinator Adam Baker said, “Volunteers are the life blood of the Food Bank. Children must be at least 11 years old and accompanied by a volunteering adult to sort and repackage donated items. Since volunteers are working with assorted food products, closed-toe shoes are recommended — no sandals or flip-flops.”

The sheer variety of the Food Bank’s programs provides immeasurable volunteer opportunities. Baker said, “If you’ve ever wanted to work in a commercial kitchen with professional chefs, here’s your chance. Our Culinary Center accepts volunteers 18 years or older who have obtained a Food Handlers Permit. Tasks range from ingredient prep, to cleaning and paring fresh produce, to cooking.”

The Product Recovery Center sorts and repackages donated food and other grocery items. Volunteers must be at least 11 years old, except for “Family Night” where the age limit is dropped from 11 to 8. “This allows families with younger children to get involved in the Food Bank,” explained Baker. “It is a great opportunity for families to get out of the house on a weeknight. Working together, they can make a real difference on our side of the State.”

Food Bank supporters are also encouraged to serve on committees, utilizing their creativity, vision and enthusiasm. Opportunities abound for developing programs from the ground up, such as Special Events, Children’s Programs and the Volunteer Committee itself. “Put your leadership skills to work as an Agency Coordinator,” said Baker.

Ongoing help is needed with building maintenance, picking veggies and administrative duties, such as data entry, special projects, research, filing, etc. Their Senior Servings Program distributes fresh produce and staple items to need senior adults. The Food for Kids backpacks program benefits at risk school age children who face hunger over weekends or holidays and where reduced-priced breakfasts and lunches are not available. Ideally, adult groups of 15-25 pack nutritious snack items for the backpacks. Volunteers must be at least 11 years of age.

Volunteer positions are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. till noon and from 1-3 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1-4 p.m. Weeknight opportunities are Monday through Thursday from 6-8 p.m. All volunteers must be scheduled in advance. For more information, call Adam Baker at 918-936-4545 or email abaker@foodbank.org.