Redwood Empire Food Bank needs help to keep groceries coming to people in need

Volunteer Leah Harmon weighs a bag of onions at the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa on Thursday, February 4 2021. With demand for food continuing to soar amid the pandemic, the regional food bank is desperate for more volunteers. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

As the pandemic and its painful consequences hang on, many families and individuals struggle to afford basic groceries.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank can help, but in the face of tremendous need, the nonprofit pleads for more volunteers to sort and package and deliver the food.

“So many people needing assistance right now have never had to ask for help before. We are seeing the highest numbers we’ve ever seen,” said food bank chief David Goodman.The current enormous demand for food has his agency scrambling for enough volunteer workers to keep the groceries flowing.

“We’ve never done anything alone here,” Goodman said. ”We depend on volunteers to feed the community."

The food bank is most eager to attract individuals and groups to cover shifts at its warehouse on Brickway Boulevard, off Airport Boulevard. There, volunteers who are outdoors but sheltered by two tents glean and package fruits and vegetables, fill boxes with groceries and sort donated food items.

There currently are Monday-through-Friday work shifts at the warehouse from 7 to 9 a.m., 10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Throughout February there are Saturday shifts from 9 a.m. to noon.

People who pitch in at the warehouse wear masks as they work in one of the tents, and they maintain a distance of at least six feet from the closest person.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank also seeks additional volunteers to sign up to work some of the frequent drive-through food distributions at locations throughout the community. These volunteers must be able to repeatedly lift cartons weighing 35 to about 40 pounds.

Yet another volunteer opportunity at the REFB involves the Apple Core group.

These folks make themselves available at a moment’s notice to respond to a need for more hands at the warehouse or at a food distribution. They are alerted to the immediate need for help via email.

There’s more information on the Redwood Empire Food Bank and on opportunities for volunteering and for making donations at refb.org.

“We need 160 volunteers per day,” said Rachelle Mesheau, a hunger relief worker for the REFB and also its marketing and PR manager.

Mesheau and Goodman know well that to work at the food bank feeds one’s soul.

For more photos and interactive content, read this story on the Press Democrat website

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