This letter is in regards to the letter written by Brittany Christensen in last Tuesday’s Transcript-Bulletin concerning the Tooele County Food Bank.
As a food bank volunteer who works 20 to 40 hours a week, I’d like to give Miss Christensen my point of view from the inside. Our food bank has only three paid employees: the Director Lorri Trujillo, and two part-time employees who work 19.5 hours each a week. One works the morning shift and one works the afternoon shift.
These two employees make daily runs to stores that donate to us. These include Albertsons, Macys, Soelbergs and Walmart. The work entails loading and unloading the trailer; pulling pallet jacks loaded with hundreds of pounds of food up our back ramp; weighing all the food donations in individual categories such as canned goods, dairy, baked goods and dry goods; and then stocking the shelves, refrigerators and freezers.
Without loyal volunteers this would be nearly impossible. Most days we have two to four volunteers, some days more, some days less, and sometimes we get a community service worker. I am one of the younger volunteers and I am 70 years old. We have three other ladies who are regular volunteers that are in their 80s: Jean Rush, Caroline Lopez and Louise Busico. We also have Al and Joy Wood who are 70 plus. On any given day, I can guarantee that each of us individually will lift and stock around a ton of food. All of the meat and baked goods are put into freezers and rotated. If the date on these items is a month old, it is because they have been frozen and rotated, as are all the eggs, the dairy products and canned goods. As for the food that we bag, in our spare time, such as beans, rice, meat, etc., we get these things donated to us in bulk in 50 or 100 pound bags. We wear gloves and adhere to Tooele County Health Department guidelines and have food handler permits. Some of the food is already bagged when we receive it from the Utah Food Bank. It would not be feasible to give one family a 100 pound bag of food and let other families go without.
When we receive food donations from food drives from church groups, Boy Scouts and different businesses and organizations, we receive large amounts of canned goods, mostly from household shelves and pantries. With two or three of us stocking and separating them, it would take endless hours to check the dates on all those cans. We have guidelines posted letting our patrons now the life of all the goods we give out. These dates for unopened goods on the shelves are years longer than the sell-by-date on them. I know some people aren’t comfortable eating them and that is their choice.
Not only do we pick up food daily from local stores, we get lots of private donations, plus food from drives, food brought to us twice a week from the Utah Food Bank, and many pallets every other month from Walmart Distribution Center.
All these donations have to be weighed, separated and stocked. We also have to fill hundreds of food order baskets a week to give out to our clients, as well as keeping our pantry neat and clean. Up front, we have to take our clients’ orders, keep records and files on all the families that we serve, both hard copies and in our computers. Our clients here in Tooele County number in the thousands. All this work plus more is done by two part-time workers, and if we are lucky, maybe six volunteers in a good week! It would be wonderful if we had more people in our community to come volunteer and take some of the load off our shoulders — aching shoulders at that!
Miss Christensen, if you’d like to come in just to check the dates on the food, we’d love to have you join us. And I’m sure if your relative would come in and talk to Lorri, the director, and explain her situation, Lorri would be glad to help her out without having to wait a month.
Honestly, all of us here at the Food Bank do the best we can with what we have. Some days we have a lot to give, others not so much as our pantry gets very low at times. Most of our clients are very grateful and appreciative of any help they get from us, and it makes all our hard work very worthwhile.
Sue Martinez Johansen