No matter if you are a one of our incredible regular volunteers or if you are new to Food For Thought, the odds are that you are most likely helping pack and load our PowerSacks on Friday mornings (at our Central location at 1600 W. Colfax and at our East site at 5303 Havana Street). This incredibly important (and fun) part of what we do is literally just the “Tip of the Iceberg” of a week-long effort that starts every Monday and ends when PowerSacks are given to students on Friday afternoons.
To achieve our singular goal of fighting childhood hunger by providing weekend meals to elementary aged children in the Denver Metro area, it takes a well-organized group of dedicated individuals working all week to ensure that the food is ready to be packed and delivered every Friday.
It all starts with our Ambassadors. This is group of 40 or so people that maintain contact with our schools to keep communication open and to provide a weekly count of the number of PowerSacks needed per school (we always welcome people that are interested in being a FFT Ambassador). Once these classroom counts are tallied every Monday, they are used to place the current week’s food order with Food Bank of the Rockies. We have a Volunteer Ordering Team that sends these orders every Tuesday.
Every Wednesday, our order is reviewed and confirmed, and a list of food is provided for the Friday packing. On Thursday mornings, the order is checked and one of our outstanding volunteer trucking partners picks up and delivers the food to our two packing sites where it is ready to be removed from the pallets and staged for packing on Friday mornings.
At 4:30AM on Friday mornings a small crew shows up to unload and stage the bins – that were packed and loaded into containers the previous week – for pickup by our trucking volunteers. In case you didn’t know, each bin contains seven (7) PowerSacks and can weigh as much as 70lbs some weeks!
Around 5:00AM more folks start showing up to break down each pallet and prepare the various items in this week’s order to be packed. This entails opening or unwrapping every case. It involves stacking and staging the actual items on tables so that they are ready to be placed in bags once we start packing.
While this all of this is happening, several others are placing empty bins and lids at each container to prepare for the packing and loading. Also, empty tucks and delivery crews are showing up and loading the trucks to go out and deliver the food to our schools (we always need trucking and delivery volunteers).
At 6:00 we are busy setting up the volunteer sign-in tent, moving tables around, getting empty bags ready and putting the finishing touches on our packing “production lines”. A little later, our volunteer check in team shows up and starts checking people in and helping guide newcomers. Another “did you know” is that check-in uses a software package called Charity Proud that allows us keep track of the number of volunteers and helps us systematically keep people informed digitally through email outreach etc.
Finally, it’s show time! Our founder and leader Bob Bell (who has been involved in every step described all week) takes the time to share our mission and history and to thank everyone for showing up. Usually by 7:15 we start packing and are done between 8:30 and 8:45 every week.
We then clean everything up, pack all of our tables and supplies away and get ready for 3:00PM when we know that our food is getting into the hands of these children.
If you are a newcomer and want to know more, here’s a quick read: https://foodforthoughtdenver.org/our-approach/
Great to understand the inner workings of such a great organization. Maybe other cities with hunger issues can take a page from this playbook!