Rebecca Schlaht, operations manager, at Helping Hands Food Bank in Sedro-Woolley is a rising star in the food world…at least that’s what she’s heard. While not a household name quite yet, Schlaht and her team are hard at work finding inventive ways to better serve their clients in Skagit County. Schlaht’s motivation is clear, “I want to change the public’s notion of who uses the food bank and the kind of food they get.”
To realize this change, the team at Helping Hands has dedicated itself to raising awareness within the community and to providing as much fresh and nutritious food as possible. Their outreach is gaining traction and as Schlaht points out, “clients appreciate that we are concerned with their health.”
Big things are on the horizon for Helping Hands. They are currently moving forward with a capital campaign to build a brand new building. The new facility will be designed around the “shopping model” so that clients, rather than standing in line for food, can enjoy a much more comfortable experience. In fact, Schlaht has made it a point to send her volunteer team to other area food banks offering a similar experience. She points out that visits to places like the Bellingham Food Bank provide hands-on experience with the shopping model and offer valuable insights for their new building. Since 95% of Helping Hands’ volunteers are clients, this is a compelling example of how clients are helping shape the food bank’s future. The new site will also include enough space for a vegetable garden. Envisioned as not just a source for fresh produce, the garden will offer some great educational opportunities for the community as well.
Deftly putting social media to work in their cause, Helping Hands creates a video each month highlighting the people and happenings at the food bank. The videos are posted on their Facebook page and have proven quite effective. A recent donor appreciation video has already garnered 2,400 views! Their videos have caught the attention of other local organizations and started important conversations. Bethany Covenant Church in Mt. Vernon, for example, recently invited Schlaht to hold an interactive “hunger demo” for kids at the church. Aimed at the “next generation,” Schlaht’s food demos attempt to counter common misconceptions about hunger—and food banks—while encouraging community members to do more for their hungry neighbors.
With an extensive background in operations management, it’s not surprising that Schlaht is also busy working to formulate an official emergency food plan for Skagit County. With a firm grip on the logistic challenges involved in saving and distributing food during an emergency, she is reaching out to local food distributors and manufacturers to formulate a coordinated plan. Having enlisted Skagit County officials, the Skagit County Food Distribution Center, and the Mt. Vernon food bank, Helping Hands is spearheading the effort to develop a formal emergency food plan for Skagit County.
Bottom line: Helping Hands is working hard to be a catalyst for change in their community. Bringing people and institutions together to leverage the rich resources of the Skagit Valley for those in need, Schlaht and her team are true hunger fighters!
Check out a Helping Hands production here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW1FQiF4TY0