Local food bank looking for volunteers

By Taylor C. Snow

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Providing food for more than 108,000 people in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, located in Hatfield, has been serving the Western Mass. community for about 30 years.

Taylor Snow/Collegian

This fall, the Food Bank is looking for volunteers to work in the warehouse sorting items, including but not limited to helping sort food in the 40-degree walk-in cooler.

One in eight people in the region are struggling with hunger, and at times these people rely on the reduced-price items that the food bank offers, according to the Food Bank’s education coordinator, Molly Coon.

Coon said that the bank provides around 7.6 million pounds of food annually to nearly 400 food agencies including pantries, kitchens, meal sites, senior centers and youth programs in the western Mass. area.

“If you picture an 18-wheeler truck full (of items), it would be (the equivalent of) 200 of those back-to-back, filled with food,” Coon said.

The food comes in the form of donations from grocery stores, corporations and farms, and is then sent to the bank for sorting.

That’s where the volunteers come in.

According to Coon, the bank has had dozens of interns from the University of Massachusetts over the past several years, but is currently lacking student volunteers, which Coon attributes to multiple factors.

“The challenge is transportation,” Coon said. The Food Bank is not on a UMass Transit route and is about a 25-minute drive from campus.

“Also, all sorting shifts are on weekdays and can conflict with classes,” Coon said.

Coon added that if the aforementioned conflicts can be avoided, the Food Bank is a great place to learn and become involved as a young adult. As a former UMass student, Coon volunteered at the Amherst Survival Center once a week from 2006 to 2009.

“Volunteering gave me perspective on the type of organizations I want to be involved with,” she said. “It gave me a new value for civic organizations that make a town feel like a community. It’s absolutely true that what you give is what you get; that’s one way to make your life more vibrant.”

Those interested in volunteering should contact The Food Bank’s volunteer coordinator, Erin Sullivan at [email protected]

Taylor Snow can be reached at [email protected]