My name is Frankie Beach and I am currently serving as Food Security and Nutrition Program Coordinator with Hunger Intervention Program (HIP) in Lake City, Seattle.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, HIP has been in crisis mode, trying to get food out the door to as many people as possible while limiting our volunteer numbers and following safety precautions. Within a week, all nutrition education workshops we had planned for the spring were cancelled, and the normalcy of day to day operations collapsed as we sprung into action, directing our attention at increasing our capacity for food production, packing, and distribution for our King County communities.
Within a week, the numbers of meals we were distributing tripled, due to an overwhelming urgency caused by this health and economic crisis. People were (and still are) losing their jobs, unable to leave their house due to being at-risk or elderly, or suddenly responsible for providing childcare. Each day brought a new awareness of need and a new call to action.
My role at HIP
As coordinator of the HIP Pack Program, I am responsible for organizing the packing of 600 weekend food packs for kids and 100 grocery bags for families. Initially, I found myself unable to imagine how we could possibly produce such a large amount of packs with such limited capacity. But then the magic happened. Our most dedicated (not at risk) volunteers continued to show up, gloved and masked, ready to assemble packs together for sometimes hours at a time.
In these moments, I came to recognize more fully the role that volunteers play in not only our work at HIP, but the work of so many non-profit organizations that strive to improve the lives of underserved communities. Despite their own anxieties about the changing times, kids at home, or fear about the virus, they showed up and made a huge impact. HIP as an organization went from serving 8,000 meals in March to 18,000 meals in April (this includes HIP packs, senior meals, and lunches for kids).
The numbers are awe inspiring, but what is behind the numbers is the continued effort of individuals, from the people working in the food delivery warehouses to our volunteers packing milk and peanut butter into plastic bags. In a crisis, people do step up and put aside their own comfort for the well-being of less fortunate communities.
And despite the fact that there is still need, still hunger, and still suffering in our communities, the impact that these volunteers make matters. A few weeks ago, I called recipients of our grocery bag program to get feedback on the items in the bag. I spoke to a teacher who is too low on the pay scale to afford the food that her family needs now that afterschool programs are shut down. I spoke to multiple people who have lost their jobs due to the virus and have no income. I spoke to a woman whose husband died in the past month and was struggling to properly feed her children. I spoke to an 80 year old woman with macular degeneration who cannot leave her house and says she would not have survived quarantine without the weekly grocery bags.
The work and conviction of our volunteers is not only inspiring, but it gives me hope that people can come together and make a meaningful impact, even in unprecedented and challenging times.