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Volunteer Spotlight: Taylor Prochnow

By August 24, 2023August 25th, 2023No Comments

Taylor Prochnow started volunteering here at Food Lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic and felt an immediate connection to the work being done here at the Hunger Solution Center. As a member of the Washington Army National Guard (Medical Corps), Taylor shows her passion for service and for helping others every single day in her work.

Having her as a member of our Production Corp Volunteer Team is such an honor, and we are thankful for her service on both fronts. Taylor sat down for a conversation with David Jefferson, our Marketing & Communications Strategist for this month’s Volunteer Spotlight.

How long have you been a volunteer at Food Lifeline? 

Almost 3 years, since December 2020.

What got you interested in volunteering?

I moved to the Seattle area at the beginning of 2020 just before the pandemic, so I didn’t yet have a community and was feeling very isolated. I was also overwhelmed by the reality of COVID impacting so many communities and how much we still didn’t know about how it spread or how to get it under control, but I knew I wanted to help my community in a way that was respectful and safe. I had been activated with the Washington Army National Guard to do contact tracing until the state could set up the response infrastructure, and heard from folks on every call about how they were struggling with their health but also with underemployment, inability to access food, childcare, etc. Thankfully I had my health, so I wanted to give back and serve others who were struggling through the pandemic. I had volunteered at food banks before and found that both meaningful and a great way to meet other service-minded individuals, so I researched organizations leading hunger-relief efforts in my area and learned about the emergency distribution efforts at Food Lifeline.

What does a typical day look like for you when you come to volunteer? 

I volunteer for the Thursday afternoon shift every week, and when I arrive, I have a fun, unique greeting with each member of the team — shout out to Hank who is always up for a silly dance party, and Harmony and Alexious who give the warmest hugs! Then I get right to work helping the Production Corps set up for the shift before volunteers arrive, usually they’ve already determined where they need support, but we all pitch in during set up before going to our designated shift areas. Once the volunteers arrive, we help the Production Corps lead with instructions and getting volunteers acquainted with the process and space they’ll be working in. Once they begin, we try to have fun and keep it interesting for the volunteers throughout their shift! Creating friendly competitions, providing information on where the products are from and where they’re going so they can understand the bigger picture, and helping alleviate some of the Production Corps work by moving product and getting it ready to go out to the community.

What have you learned about yourself since starting to volunteer here?

What have you learned about our food system? Every time I volunteer at Food Lifeline, I’m reminded that my contribution is part of a much larger process, and the system is so much bigger than me. It helps put into perspective how to be intentional with how I’m showing up for the volunteers and the Production Corps that day. I’ve learned so much about food safety and food justice that I did not understand before volunteering with Food Lifeline. The ways in which access to nutritious and healthy food has impacted communities and the complexities of the systemic and systematic ways food insecurity has caused inequity and harm. I’ve learned so much about the root causes of poverty and injustice impacting hunger, and I respect that Food Lifeline’s mission goes beyond the immediate need to make a lasting impact.

What has been one of your favorite moments since starting to volunteer? 

Joining during the C-Pod emergency distribution will always have a special place in my heart when I think about why I’m so passionate about volunteering with Food Lifeline. Being part of the team that was directly interacting with the community and putting boxes directly into cars to help meet an immediate need for them is still one of my favorite memories. It was always fun when there were young children in the cars as well so we could sneak in a sweet for them or have a fun little (distanced) dance party! Coming in to volunteer and seeing a long line of cars already waiting was always a solemn reminder for me of how much the community was struggling and how much that support mattered to them.

Have you ever personally dealt with food insecurity?

Do you know anyone who has? I have experienced food insecurity as a teenager in a household that was struggling to make ends meet, but I acknowledge that I still had access to resources to alleviate some of that burden, so I did not feel the full weight of the systemic harm. I know many others who struggled greatly with food insecurity and the inequity that rippled across their lives. That lack of access and resources impacts far too many people.

What would you tell someone who wants to come and volunteer but may be a bit apprehensive? 

Food Lifeline is a wonderful community of very welcoming people! If you are unsure about volunteering, please stop by and you’ll be greeted by helpful, informative staff who are passionate about their work but will never make you feel pressured to be there. Even if you only volunteer once, you will make a big difference for your community! And you’ll have a lot of fun with the team while you’re volunteering!

What does food mean to you? 

Food is both a basic right that needs to be met, and an incredible way to express and share history, traditions, joy, family, happiness, and so much more. Food is its own universal language that brings people together all around the world. So many of my best memories in life are over a shared meal with others! Tasting a hand-me-down recipe, making a meal that reminds you of your childhood, serving the best of the best dish that has won awards, trying something new that teaches you about another culture, being present and enjoying the experience together—food can be transformative.