There are so many critical components that help the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank run its operations smoothly and, in turn, get food to those who need it.
One of the most important is its volunteers. Throughout April, the food bank is recognizing those who give their time to help end food insecurity as part of Volunteer Appreciation Month.
Angela Mallick is the food bank’s community engagement manager, overseeing volunteer operations and community fundraising. On the volunteer side, she works with two community engagement coordinators to ensure volunteers are staffed throughout the food bank’s events and operations.
“Between the three of us, we recruit about 6,000 volunteers a year,” Mallick said.
In mid-March 2020, it became clear that social distancing would not allow for some of the food distributions to operate.
“The beginning of the pandemic for the volunteer team was pretty crazy in a lot of ways,” Mallick said. “Within a week, we had gone from business as usual to shutting down our second-largest volunteer operation, which is Produce to People.”
That was followed by the cancellation of the Empty Bowls event, which also involves volunteers, and then the closure of the sorting center in the food bank warehouse. Many of the sorting center volunteers come to the food bank every day, but at that time, they were forced to stay home.
Eventually, volunteers shifted to drive-up distributions and doorstep delivery.
Over the summer, volunteers were allowed back into the warehouse. For Mallick, it created a sense of relief and happiness.
“Being able to have those folks back in the building for a while has been great. It’s really been uplifting to be able to interact with them every day and be able to run around the warehouse and see all of those volunteers we know and love and who care so deeply about the food bank and the mission,” she said.
During Volunteer Appreciation Month, the volunteer team is holding activities and giveaways to show their appreciation.
“The reason that volunteers are so important is because almost none of our programming would be possible without the support of our volunteers,” she said. “We have about 120 staff members at the moment, but my team, we bring in about 6,000 volunteers every single year to come and give of their time.”
Mallick encouraged anyone who is interested in volunteering to call, email or sign up online with the food bank.
“Volunteering is sort of like donating in that every little bit counts,” she said. “If you can come out and give two hours, that can make a real difference for our staff and the people we serve.”
Listen: Angela Mallick talks about the importance of the food bank’s volunteers