The Donation Station
In this module we hope to provide a comprehensive guide for Donation Station operations.
We encourage new volunteers to take their time in this section, make notes, and use this page as a reference tool. As a volunteer, you will be representing Farmer Foodshare. You will have a major impact in connecting the produce from market to hunger relief organizations in your community.
Before you sign up for a shift you should have completed the following: 1) a volunteer application and 2) attended an in-person orientation OR this online orientation and training.
For Triangle –area markets, you must sign up for a volunteer shift using signup.com. You will need to create an account. Make sure you have selected the correct location, date and shift time, then click ‘Save.’ You should receive an email confirmation of your shift sign-up.
Please sign up for shifts as far in advance as possible. Consistency is helpful to our staff, recipients and other volunteers!
It is important to arrive prepared. The day before working a shift we recommend the following:
- Review the basics of Farmer Foodshare’s mission, the need we serve, and how our service programs work.
- Be familiar with the recipient organization of the Donation Station you are volunteering at– who they serve, where, how and why.
- Know the physical location of the farmers market, its hours (they can vary!), the weather forecast, and where to park.
- Bring the following items with you:
- FFS shirt if you have one, otherwise solid color or tops with small logos/branding preferred.
- Comfortable shoes for walking/standing for 2-4 hours.
- Water Bottle
- Weather appropriate gear - jackets, umbrella, hats, gloves, layers!
Farmer's markets generally operate regardless of fairly heavy rain, wind, or cold. We would like Donation Stations to operate every market possible, but safety always comes first! Use your best judgement, but please make sure to contact the lead volunteer or staff if you must cancel your volunteer commitment.
Generally, we require a 24-hour cancellation notice. Please inform staff members or a lead volunteer at your market if you are unable to attend. If you know another volunteer that could replace your shift, please reach out to your fellow volunteer. Remember, recipients are counting on us to gather food donations!
Arrival and Set-Up
Arrive at market 5-10 minutes early. The lead volunteer will know where materials are stored and where to set up, but if you are setting up on your own, the market manager or staff can usually assist you. Every station is slightly different, but most will include the following materials:
- Folding table and tablecloth
- Activity forms
- Remaining cash donations from previous market
- Volunteer manual
- FFS staff contact information
- Donation receipts
- Information and promotional materials: flyers, stickers, etc.
- Donation Jar
- Folding signs
- Produces boxes and baskets
Please discard flyers or materials that are no longer relevant, keep the binder neat, and let us know if you have suggestions for how we could improve our materials!
Please contact staff if materials are running low at firstname.lastname@example.org. We rely on volunteers to maintain the station and its materials.
examples of table set-ups
You can be creative as long as the table or tent set-up falls within the market guidelines!
After assembling the table, the first step in operating the station is beginning a new activity form. Make sure to include your name, the date, and the amount of money left in the binder from the previous market (make sure the amount matches what the previous market form indicates was left behind).
Volunteers are responsible for staffing the table, interacting with shoppers to explain our mission, and purchasing food from as many farmers present at market as possible. Volunteers may take turns in each of these roles or a lead volunteer may assign roles. At least one volunteer should be at the table at all times, unless working a market alone.
During your shift you are the face of Farmer Foodshare! Your demeanor and actions determines how the public perceives our organization and influences their decision to donate.
- Smile, make eye contact, and be approachable. Engage and greet the public!
- Don’t look bored and please don’t use your mobile devices when you are behind the table. We ask volunteers to remain standing because it allows the public to see and engage with you more effectively.
Your main goal is to get shoppers involved with Farmer Foodshare in some way. Interactions at the Donation Station should encourage visitors to make a small produce or cash donation, join the mailing list, attend an event, or become a volunteer themselves!
Experiment with one-line pitches:
- "Good morning - have you heard about Farmer Foodshare before?"
- "Hi - what brings you to the market this morning? [Wait for response] Wonderful! Well, we're here today supporting these farmers and a local recipient agency ____."
- "Hello - are you familiar with the Donation Station for this market?"
Explaining the Donation Station:
“Good morning! This is a donation station. What we’re trying to do here is get fresh, local food from the farmers at this market out to those in the community who might not otherwise have access to this type of nutritious produce. We invite shoppers to buy a little extra produce to donate or donate some cash at this table! All monetary donations will be spent at this market and we try to distribute the wealth evenly amongst the farmers. At the end of the day, the food will be collected by a recipient organization [ give name] to distribute to those in need.”
Explaining the Need:
“Our mission is to support both local farmers and our neighbors in need. Small farmers, along with disadvantaged farmers-- like women or farmers of color—need to make a living. They offer enormous benefits to the community – more jobs, environmental stewardship, and local access – but aren’t always adequately supported or may not have access to markets like this one. We seek to create partnerships and create market access for these folks. Meanwhile, there is a paradox between obesity and hunger in our state. We are trying to make sure that people who want access to nutritious, farm-fresh food can get it.”
Explaining the Recipient Agency:
“Refugee Community Partnership of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, formerly known as the Human Rights Center, is an organization that serves a variety of disadvantaged groups in the community. Currently they primarily serve immigrants, migrant workers, and refugees by offering translation and legal services, job search assistance, and after school tutoring. The nourishing meals they create with the food from this market brings these community members closer together.”
Explaining other Farmer Foodshare service programs:
“The Donation Station is Farmer Foodshare’s flagship service program. It started in Carrboro, NC in 2009. Now there are almost 40 stations like this across the state!. We also began the “Farmer Foodshare Wholesale Market” to create new partnerships, accounts and allow recipients to buy bulk amounts of produce directly from farmers. We host cooking demonstrations through our ‘Food Ambassadors” program because food education is so important! We emphasize the importance of cooking with nutritious ingredients through this program. We teach our recipients how to prepare or store seasonal foods and how to make healthy, economical meals on a budget. We frequently hold ‘Community Meals’ to bring together farmers, recipients, and volunteers because we believe it’s important for everyone to understand how we all fit into this food system together.”
Volunteers make purchases from farmers throughout the market as cash is donated by shoppers. Ideally, money is spent evenly at as many farms as possible each market. As purchases are made, it is important to keep the activity sheet updated with the amount spent and the products purchased from each farm. The general guidelines for purchases are:
- Food purchases should be almost entirely fresh fruits and vegetables. However, some recipient organizations might indicate to volunteers that they have a need for goods like eggs or bread, and it is ok to purchase them in moderation.
- Buy a mix of greens, along with calorie rich foods like potatoes, squash, etc.
- Look for items farmers may have a lot of, or aren’t selling quickly
- It is always ok to ask farmers and shoppers for their recommendations on what to purchase!
Keep in mind that our mission is to support both the recipients of the market produce, and the farmers growing it. Volunteers do not ask for discounts.
Volunteers should also always wear the volunteer name-tags and let each farmer know that the food is going to the Donation Station.
As produce accumulates, volunteers are encouraged to display it in a way that is visually appealing for shoppers. Instead of stuffing produce in a box under the table, spread the beautiful produce across the table!
Under no circumstances may a volunteer take food or cash from the Donation Station for themselves. Actions like these will result in immediate dismissal of the volunteer.
Treat the produce as if it were your own groceries! Volunteers should wash their hands before handling food, and store it on clean surfaces.
Leafy greens should be kept out of direct sunlight on warm days. If any donated produce appears to have spoiled, make sure to discard it instead of mixing with other items.
End of Market
The Donation Station should operate for the entire length of the market. Volunteers do not begin packing up until the market has ended. During this process, several tasks should be happening simultaneously:
- Making rounds politely asking farmers if they have extra produce that they would like to donate if they are not able to sell it at another market before it spoils.
- Consolidating produce at the Donation Station into boxes, weighing them, and recording the results on the paper activity form, AS WELL AS the online activity form.
- Packing up handouts, signs, table cloth, donation jar, etc. and storing it at the designated location at the market.
- Counting the remaining donated cash and recording the result on the activity form.
The recipient should arrive near the end of market to receive the food. Volunteers should offer to assist them in loading their vehicle.
Your job is complete when all materials are stored, the food has been picked up, and the online activity form as been completed.
Did anything special happen that day? We’re always looking for stories and photos. Don’t hesitate to tag @FarmerFoodshare on social media or send email@example.com content in any form!
Congratulate yourself, and remember that just a few volunteers can and will make a big difference!