Editor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.
Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.
Interview with Alicia Saake, Volunteer Programs Manager at Feeding America San Diego
Adam: Why is fighting hunger important to you?
Alicia: I believe that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life and that having access to nutritious food is a basic building block to successfully doing so. 1 in 6 people in America (and 1 in 5 here in San Diego County) are food insecure, meaning they don’t have reliable access to food. With the abundance of food available and the large amounts that are wasted, hunger is an issue that we can and should work to end in our community.
Adam: How does your organization fight hunger?
Alicia: Feeding America San Diego (FASD) works to fight hunger at a local (county) and regional level, with the support of Feeding America at the national level and over 160 partner agencies at the local (community) level.
We bring in food from local manufacturers, local farmers and grocery stores to our Distribution Center where volunteers sort, glean, pack, and check food for safety. The food is then distributed to those who need it though our programs, which focus on Feeding Kids, Feeding Families, and Feeding Forces in an innovative, nutrition based method.
Adam: How do you show your appreciation for your volunteers?
Alicia: We always say thank you in a meaningful way unique to each volunteer, every time they volunteer. Each year, we also send out personalized holiday cards to recognize the commitment they have made throughout the year and wish them well in the coming year.
Additionally, we provide name tags and t-shirts to volunteers after they have met certain hour requirements, and have been lucky to receive Padres tickets to distribute to our most dedicated volunteers. Long term volunteers are also taken on field trips to volunteer at partner agencies or program sites so they can see the complete circle of the work they do at our Distribution Center.
As far as formal recognition events, we host a yearly recognition event in April and a potlatch mixer in November.
Adam: What do you love about your work?
Alicia: I love getting to work daily with volunteers and staff who are just as passionate about our mission as I am. I am in a unique position to not only further inspire volunteers to do more to support our mission in the community, but am also able to help volunteers develop personally and professionally through mutually beneficial volunteer position placements within our organization.
It is such a wonderful feeling to step back and know that an event is running smoothly and efficiently because the right volunteers are in the right positions. Each successful volunteer event means more food to those who need it, and it is an honor to know that because of the 8,000 volunteers I had the pleasure of working with last year we were able to get 21.5 million pounds of food to San Diegans who need it.