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Redwood Empire Food Bank seeks volunteers to meet rise in demand

There was a time, not long ago, when the Redwood Empire Food Bank had a surplus of volunteers eager to help meet a huge rise in demand for free groceries caused by economic fallout of the pandemic.

Those days are over.

“We are in dire need of volunteers,” said Lisa Cannon, a spokeswoman for the large and ambitious Santa Rosa-based food bank.

Earlier in the crisis that has put many people out of work or has shrunk their income, the REFB had so many people offering to help package and distribute food that it had to turn some away. But as the pandemic has ground on, fewer potential food packers and distributors have come forward.

As a result, the food bank off Airport Boulevard between Santa Rosa and Windsor now pleads for help to get nutrition to the vastly increased numbers of families and individuals who need it.

Since March, the REFB has served more than 454,000 people in Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, a 280% increase in food recipients.

Volunteers are needed to place food in bags and cartons, and to staff drive-thru food distributions.

For the safety of volunteers, the packaging work has been moved outdoors at the food bank on Brickway Boulevard. Volunteers wear masks and gloves, stand at least 6 feet apart and have access to hand sanitizer.

There typically are work shifts from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, and from 2 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Friday.

Help also is needed when the REFB schedules opportunities for people to pick up food at drive-thru distributions.

Anyone interested in helping the food bank ensure that people don’t go hungry amid the pandemic is invited to visit refb.org.

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