Volunteer Appreciation Month
With April as Volunteer Appreciation Month, we want to highlight our fantastic volunteers at Ritter Center’s food pantry, as well as our valued partners like the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. Our pantry distributes groceries to over 350 households each week which totals over 16,000 bags of groceries a year.
Our volunteers are members of the community from all walks of life. We have students from Dominican University and other schools, retirees, parents with children, community members who have mandatory service hours for non-violent, non-serious crimes, and community members from ReEmployAbility. The Dominican student volunteers come on a regular schedule each week.
One amazing regular volunteer is Kuo Lew who shows up without fail every delivery day to help us get everything inside and stocked on the shelves. You can read about his dedication to our mission from a past story here.
Another community member, Liz McBrady, is a regular, dedicated and committed volunteer for Ritter Center. She makes a trip to Costco twice a month and delivers it to Ritter Center. Donations of unopened, unexpired food from members of the community make a big difference to our food pantry.
“Seeing these people living with all of their belongings on their back emotionally moves me. It shows pointedly how vastly different we are in society in terms of how we allow others to exist. It’s heartbreaking. There is so much wealth here, and yet, there are people who are hungry, perhaps even starving, living outside in the rain storms,” said Liz.
Once COVID began, Liz realized during lockdown that she wanted to do something to make a difference right here in her own community. She called Ritter Center and offered to do some shopping to donate much needed food items during the pandemic.
“I went to Costco and spent $125 the first time around, and I thought to myself that I’m lucky to be able to afford to do this. There was more desperation during the start of COVID than today, but the need is still significant. The first two years I did this during COVID, I went every week, and now I go about three times a month. I particularly like to shop at Trader Joe’s and Costco where I feel I get the best value for my dollar. Basically, I am looking for solid choices for Ritter Center food pantry patrons. It makes me feel good to be able to give back. It makes me feel like I am making a difference,” said Liz.
“I try to think about what is not perishable and what someone might like if they were able to do their own grocery shopping ,” reflected Liz. “I hope we can challenge more Marin-ites to engage with this critical effort to help our neighbors out.”
Throughout the week, Ritter Center receives several deliveries from ExtraFood which is a key partner with a mission to end food waste. They pick up food from across Marin County from schools, grocery stores, restaurants, and catering companies. These are things that would otherwise be thrown away for a variety of reasons, and ExtraFood brings it to places like Ritter Center to quickly get it into the hands of people who will use it.
The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is Ritter Center’s largest food pantry program supplier. Their Program Coordinator Patricia Madrigal works very closely with Ritter Center’s Pantry Lead Jorge Garcia to ensure food access to community members and that the pantry runs smoothly each week.
Ritter Center receives deliveries from the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank on Mondays and Wednesdays. Items from these distributions include items for our unhoused community members, such as pre-packaged, ready-to-eat and shelf-stable items such as protein bars, tuna, and beverages. On Wednesday, Ritter receives items for those who are able to cook like fresh produce, and refrigerated/frozen items such as milk, eggs, frozen meat, and cheese.
The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank serves as a distribution center for our partners across San Francisco and Marin.
“Every day we receive food to distribute to our network. In fact, we support 240 food pantries large and small run by our partners including senior centers, community based organizations, and faith based organizations. During COVID, we also launched emergency response pop-up pantries in San Francisco and Marin that are run by our staff,” said Patricia.
“The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has different avenues of sourcing food, including agricultural and industry surplus, manufacturers, grocery stores, and US Department of Agriculture (USDA). As an example, Ritter Center often receives rice, pasta, eggs, and other items that come to the Food Bank via USDA. These various sources of food help us build a robust pantry menu for our community members who receive these groceries,” added Patricia.
“Our goal is to provide people with weekly access to nutritious food. We aim to achieve a balance between offering food items that are universally familiar, with opportunities for participants to try food items that may be new to them. We are also aiming to advance our menu to include more culturally appropriate food items and address cooking limitations,” said Patricia.
“Ritter Center’s Jorge Garcia has been a key connector for our organization. He often helps to identify items that are not desired, or that are particularly desired by their clients,” stated Patricia. “We also like to keep in mind what’s easiest to eat and items that are considered low/no cook to meet the needs of the community that may have cooking limitations. We are always striving to improve at the Food Bank. We also are especially grateful to our volunteers both at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and at all of our food pantry distribution sites. Without them, we can’t give out the food to feed all of those people that rely upon us to eat,” said Patricia.
During the height of the pandemic, Ritter Center had bags of food already made up and ready to go for both housed and unhoused clients. Now, Ritter Center is able to allow people to select the things that they desire most which enables a sense of agency which is important. This type of food pantry is called “Farmers Market Style” where people are allowed to choose their own items that fit their dietary preferences, cultural heritage, and lifestyle.
THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR VOLUNTEERS AND OUR AMAZING FOOD PANTRY PARTNERS, SF MARIN FOOD BANK AND EXTRA FOOD!
CHECK OUT SOME INSPIRING VOLUNTEER STORIES
- Read Kuo Lew’s reason for volunteering >>
- Read why volunteering feeds June Michael’s soul >>
- Read Dominican University student, Augustus Muse’s inspiration >>
INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING AT RITTER CENTER?
Consistent volunteers are crucial to keep our food pantry properly running. We are always looking for individuals who want to get involved, and the best way to learn more is to reach out to Ritter Center Volunteer Coordinator Annie Everett at [email protected] or call her at (415) 940-9999.
You can also check out our volunteer opportunities via our NEW volunteer sign up platform POINT – check it out here >>