Front Burner Blog

Volunteers are Key to Wiping out Hunger

It is 10am on a Wednesday. The setting is the cavernous Food Lifeline warehouse where 20 Farmers Insurance claims adjusters are sorting surplus food. Why are they doing this? In a nutshell, because it feeds their souls.

And they are happy to weigh in about the inherent satisfaction in reducing hunger.

“The notion that you helped rescue food [to] feed hungry people… it’s gratifying,” offers one man. Others say, “It’s a good feeling. You see the direct results [more so than giving money],” and, “I enjoy doing something so clearly gratifying, with such value to ourselves and others.”

When asked if they would rather be requested to donate money or do this, the answer is loud, clear, and unanimous, "THIS!" they cry.

Mark Coleman, Food Lifeline’s Director of Marketing and Communications, provides context. ‘We could not move 40,000,000 (yes, 40 million) pounds of food without the volunteers – about 10,000 strong. Our fundraising keeps the building open, keeps our trucks on the road and pays salaries. That uses 4 cents of each donated dollar.” The rest, he says, goes into food programs.

Within ten years, the organization wants to distribute 80,000,000 (yes, 80 million) pounds of food annually and double the number of volunteers.

“The food is out there,” shrugs Coleman.

Back at the warehouse, the claims adjusters cite a collateral benefit of being here: team building.

“Working together deepens relationships,” one person puts it. Another adds,” “It’s good for morale.” It turns out to be especially valuable for far-flung workers such as the claims adjusters since they seldom meet face-to-face. The current group hails from Tacoma, Yakima, the San Juans and up and down King and Snohomish counties.

Andrea, one of the team leaders, explains the logistics.

“We mainly work in our cars, visiting [claimants],” she says. “This is a great opportunity to contribute together to something that is not work related.”

The teams looked at several possibilities and agreed this one interested them. “It sounds neat. Let’s do it,” was the consensus. Andrea reports she easily arranged it online.

If you are a business owner or an HR Director looking at community involvement, how would you evaluate Food Lifeline as a partner? First, Food Lifeline is extremely successful at getting food to hungry people. Second, its administrative costs are tiny. The rest is the impact of the mission: vanquishing hunger. One of the Farmers employees notes that being involved with Food Lifeline says something about a company’s heart. “This work reflects on what you are trying to do as a company. [It says] you are trying to give value to the community and you care about its people.”     

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