Foodshare Programs: Both Sides of the Table

Ronneshia the Volunteer at the Farmer Foodshare  Donation Station in Carrboro

Ronneshia the Volunteer at the Farmer Foodshare Donation Station in Carrboro

Community Voices Guest Blogger

Ronneshia jackson’s first experience with a foodshare program was as a volunteer helping others…and then she found herself on the other side of the table.

by Ronneshia Jackson

I absolutely love food! My very existence revolves around pastries, bacon, fruit, and all things green. So, a few years ago, after I had just graduated college, I decided I wanted to volunteer with an organization that focused on food—specifically, helping people learn about and gain access to healthier food. I was living in Alabama at the time, and I began volunteering with a non-profit (not unlike Farmer Foodshare) with the mission of combating hunger in urban communities in the greater Birmingham metropolitan area.

At that time, I appeared to be a young lady with a sound take on life. Nice Jeep. Two-story home (mom’s house) in a nice neighborhood. Fluffy Husky puppy. Aren’t we fancy!

Ronneshia the “carefree” recent college grad

Ronneshia the “carefree” recent college grad

As a recent college graduate, I had ambitions to secure a position within my field. And as a Millennial, I wanted to establish myself within my company, community, and family. I had something to prove!

Two weeks after becoming a foodshare volunteer, I lost my (paying) job. My mother wasn’t working at that time, either. So what appeared to be a nice home with lovely amenities was actually a family struggling to serve a decent, healthy meal.

But as it turned out, the foodshare program was there for me on both sides of the table: I became a volunteer and a recipient. And in doing so, I learned that the scope of these programs include more than serving urban neighborhoods; they’re really about reaching everyone.

One side: The Volunteer.

Volunteering, I meet a huge range of people. As I help the newly single father load his car with fresh fruits and veggies, he softly shares the challenges of his laborious journey as a single dad. Next, I help the mom dressed in yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt pack vegetables and eggs into reusable bags. It amazes me how she fits everything (including four kids!) into her suburban full of sports equipment. Now, I get to listen to my favorite patron — a sweet old man on social security, who is full of funny stories and enjoys trying our recipes. As a volunteer, you serve as a beacon of hope to all, whether what they need is life connections, an extra pair of hands, or a listening ear.

Another side: The Recipient.

Now I’m on the other side of the table. I listen to an energetic volunteer explain how spaghetti squash got its name as I receive help maneuvering through the vast selection of kale. Another volunteer is trying her best to persuade me to try the beets…or at least to try the radishes. All the while, I can feel the tears of gratitude brewing behind my eyes. Tonight, my mom and I will have a fresh and healthy meal—with leftovers!

Nonprofits like the one I was a part of in Alabama and Farmer Foodshare here in North Carolina reach the entire community! As a volunteer, you learn the importance of having access to fresh produce and vegetables; as a recipient, you value the relief that these foodshare programs provide. But it’s really just two sides of the same table.

Now that I’m volunteering at Farmer Foodshare, I see how we’re striving to connect the individuals who grow the food with the people who need the food. Our reach touches every social class, ethnicity, heritage, gender, race, and individual…in essence, it’s truly food for all.