It wasn’t a quiet Saturday morning at the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.
One group swiftly made boxes and packed them full of things such as tea, rice, canned fruits and veggies, and granola bars.
Others worked on both sides of metal tables, checking and sorting food donations according to safety guidelines.
“At the end of the day I feel like I’ve made a difference,” said 15-year-old volunteer Elinor Kuykendall.
She first spent time at the food bank as part of a school project, and roped her parents into being regular volunteers.
“This is something we’ve been doing for about a year and a half,” she said.
Every Saturday, two shifts of volunteers help with needs at Care and Share. Although Saturday’s crew was smaller than usual because of the holiday, they made measurable progress. At the end of the day, about 10,000 pounds of food was sorted and ready for distribution.
“The heart and soul of Care and Share are volunteers,” said Isaac Ring, volunteer program manager. “Saturdays are our busiest days.”
Some volunteers took advantage of time off during the holidays to give back.
Shannon Mendes, 39, and her two sons started volunteering in November, just one of the volunteer duties the family takes on.
“We’re definitely taking advantage of winter break,” she said.
Several families pitched in on Saturday. Kids had no qualms about getting into the huge cardboard containers to dig out goods to be checked.
“We come about once a month,” said Mark Barrioneuvo, 37.
“They want to come every day,” he said, referring to his two young sons.
“It’s fun,” said 8-year-old Noah.
“It feels good,” chimed in 5-year-old Luke.
Volunteers don’t just sort food, although that tends to be the focus on Saturdays. They also help with office work and other programs, including cooking and nutrition classes, Ring said.
“One in five people in Colorado are considered food insecure,” Ring said. “The food that comes through here goes to meet that need.”
The warehouse east of Powers Boulevard off Constitution Avenue opened four years ago. The 40,000 square feet for food storage has more than double the capacity of the old location. The site also includes gardens and a greenhouse to add to available seasonal produce.
The food bank supplies food to pantries and assistance programs across 31 counties.
Care and Share is offering more assistance than in past years, distributing 18.5 million pounds of food last year.
“Nothing goes to waste if we can help it,” Ring said.
Donations that are too damaged or too old for consumption are given to company that composts and recycles the goods, he said.
One of the items deemed too old: a box of Girl Scout cookies from 1986 — when Ronald Reagan was in the White House.
People interested in giving time to Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado may sign up at careandshare.org or by contacting Isaac Ring at Isaac@careandshare.org or 434-5724. Large groups wishing to help out together should contact Ring directly.
By the numbers
Care and Share’s agency network serves people across southern Colorado.
• 75 percent of those receiving food are living below the federal poverty level.
• 44 percent often have to choose between paying rent and buying food.
• 35 percent of the households served have at least one working adult.
Feeding America and Mathematica Policy Research study, Hunger in America 2010