Food Bank still seeking volunteers

Volunteering in your community is extremely important, especially since the COVID virus started to distance communities. The Northeast Iowa Food Bank located in Waterloo thrives on its volunteers. The virus has affected the day to day operations of the business. The Community Outreach Manager at the Food Bank, Susan Entiken, is the one who oversees the Volunteer Department and Grants. She also works with businesses and sponsorships. 

COVID-19 has taken its toll on communities all over, but in Waterloo, the food bank has seen a significant decline in their volunteers. Even though COVID has negatively affected communities, Susan Entiken said, “I think COVID at first increased the number of people wanting to volunteer because it was so new, and people just wanted to help. There were more and more people coming together to help the community. The food bank was never shut down due to COVID, but when things (other business’) were really closed down, people got scared and we saw fewer volunteers. Once businesses and schools opened again, we saw the number of volunteers increase.”  

Prior to COVID, the food bank had about 16,000 volunteers and now the number has dropped to 9,500 a year. The food bank and volunteers were never fully shut down, but much of the volunteer work was. At the start of COVID, all food rescue routes and sorting of food was stopped. Since the beginning of summer, the food rescue has been back. The reason that it was able to come back was because the number of volunteers allowed in one area was increased.  Volunteers are kept spread out but still manage to work together to get the tasks done. 

“Volunteers were extremely important before and now. We need around 60 volunteers a day to run at pace. We usually have around 30-40 volunteers,” Entiken said. 

Volunteers often help out by working in the pantry, packing backpacks or sorting food.  Volunteers, because of COVID, may now pack dry boxes used to distribute at the Mobile Food Pantries or Cedar Valley Food Pantry. 

“High school students who volunteer learn about food insecurity and learn what it means to give back to the community and help those in need,” Susan said.  

Volunteers are not required to be vaccinated or show proof of vaccination. However, as of the middle of August, vaccinated or not, all volunteers must wear masks. When COVID first hit, the sign up process was moved to online so that the number of volunteers could be tracked. They have since found that it’s easier to keep track of volunteers through online sign up. Volunteers are encouraged to sign up to help stay active in their community. 

Volunteers can sign up through and then go to the volunteer page. 

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