Giving Back & Solving Hunger Via Volunteer Recruitment

 

HoustonConferenceSNAPOutreach

This week, we are featuring a piece from AmeriCorps-VISTA for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Outreach Volunteer, Melanie Bonds. Melanie wanted to share her experiences and reflections on volunteer recruitment during the course of her AmeriCorps service.

Recently, I presented on “Recruiting Volunteers” at the Ending Hunger through Citizen Service Conference for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) AccessAmeriCorps VISTAs in Houston, Texas.

This conference brought together AmeriCorps VISTA members across many states to discuss and reflect on past and present work, as well as future aspirations for facilitating impactful service across our communities in education, public health, and beyond.

A 2014 Hartnett & Matan study determined that volunteers nationwide spend on average more than 50 hours a year supporting an organization. Furthermore, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, more than 46 million people nationwide don’t know where their next meal will come from and in New Mexico, this means hundreds of thousands of people remain food insecure. Thus, it only makes sense to draw from such a strong volunteer demographic to assist in educating the community about the benefits of food assistance. During this presentation, I discussed the current trends of volunteerism, the different types of recruitment, and how this all ties into a SNAP Outreach program.

During the presentation, I discussed how crucial it is for a VISTA to be fully incorporated into their site to better understand the needs of their organization.  I was able to provide information to VISTAs about how to manage current volunteers or how to recruit new volunteers and where to start. Fortunately, my work with Roadrunner Food Bank since arriving here last year has opened my eyes to see the power of community-scale volunteerism.

Last year, more than 12,000 volunteers came through Roadrunner’s doors to serve our hungry neighbors. Some volunteers work on data entry in order to further strengthen donor relationships. Some volunteers sort through produce, which will go out to service more than 400 partner agencies across New Mexico. I’ve truly come to see that ALL volunteer work is invaluable during my time here.

Given such experiences, I wanted to present at the Ending Hunger through Citizen Service Conference in Houston so that I could share my knowledge and resources with other VISTAS, some of whom may be struggling with volunteer recruitment and management.  I knew this topic was pretty valuable, so I wanted to make sure it was discussed and resources were provided to my fellow VISTAs.

I would like to continue recruiting long-term volunteers for our SNAP Outreach program and building capacity for our program after my VISTA term ends.  It is crucial that there is a volunteer base after I leave so the next individual after me has some volunteers to start with.   Volunteer recruitment is never ending for a VISTA, and why I’ve been honored to work in my position with an organization like Roadrunner Food Bank.

Photo Courtesy of Melanie Bonds, Taken February 2016. Left to right: Shelby Stuckel, AmeriCorps-VISTA Volunteer for the SNAP Outreach Program at Roadrunner Food Bank’s Las Cruces offices; Melanie Bonds, AmeriCorps-VISTA Volunteer for the SNAP Outreach Program at Roadrunner Food Bank’s Albuquerque offices.

Melanie Bonds is the AmeriCorps-VISTA Volunteer for the SNAP Outreach Program at Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. Originally from North Carolina, Melanie looks forward to continuing her work on addressing hunger & poverty issues nationwide into the future. To reach Melanie or if you have other questions about SNAP Outreach, you can reach her at (844) 684-6268 or at melanie.bonds@rrfb.org.



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