Temporary workers step up to meet the increased need
In March, we made the difficult decision to suspend volunteer sessions until further notice. Thanks to a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health, we were able to hire 30 temporary employees through Penmac Staffing. All of these Hunger Heroes were displaced from their previous jobs due to COVID-19, and they have served The Food Bank with so much compassion over the past few months.
Every weekday, they sort and pack food, work in the garden, assemble Weekend Backpack food bags, Senior Food boxes, emergency food kits and so much more. We are so thankful for their service! Read about two of our newest friends below.
Before the pandemic, Jason worked as a full-time substitute teacher at Willard High School. Jason originally became a sub five years ago while looking for another job after 22 years as a service representative, but teaching quickly became his passion.
“I kind of wish I had gone into teaching in the first place. It’s fun to watch the kids grow up and see who they’re becoming. I’ve definitely missed them,” he shared.
Jason has enjoyed his time at The Food Bank. His favorite task is sorting frozen food.
“I love to cook, and I cook a lot of meat. I love sorting frozen because I love to see those big steaks come through and dream about what I could do with them at home,” he says with a laugh.
Jason says he’s learned a lot about hunger in the Ozarks over the past few months.
“Hunger in the Ozarks is more extensive than I ever thought. It’s been very eye-opening for me to work here. You get to see just how much food goes through here and how fast it gets out to people who need it. We have to do it that quick or people will go without food,” he said.
He also believes that more people need to learn about how to help their communities.
“I think that everyone should take time to get familiar with the ways that people help other people in their communities,” he expressed.
Before they came to Ozarks Food Harvest, Em was a substitute teacher at a variety of schools and cello player in the Springfield Symphony.
When school and the symphony season were canceled for the rest of the year, Em began searching for a new job.
“When all of this first started, I knew I wanted to be helpful during the pandemic in some way. I had applied for some other jobs, but when I called Penmac and they told me about this one, it felt like it was meant to be,” they said.
As an educator, Em saw how children were affected by food insecurity on a daily basis. They often noticed children taking home Weekend Backpack food bags, but at the time had no idea where the bags came from.
“It’s like connecting the dots to come work here. There were so many kids who got the food bags and got free or reduced lunch, and I always wondered where the food came from,” they said.
Now, Em spends their days sorting and packing food—and assembling Weekend Backpack food bags—for families struggling to make ends meet. Em also enjoys packing Senior Food boxes.
“My mom is elderly, and she doesn’t get these boxes, but sometimes she does need help. I understand that need and how important it is for seniors to get this food, so this really means a lot to me” they said.
Em says they’ve learned a lot about how a food bank can help people in need during their time at Ozarks Food Harvest.
“Knowing that a lot of people are relying on this right now is a big deal,” they shared. “I’m glad I got the chance to be here. I know how important it is, and I see what I’m doing to help the community.”
We are incredibly grateful for the work of Jason, Em and our other temporary employees. In the past six weeks, they have worked more than 5,000 hours and sorted hundreds of thousands of pounds of food for families in need. Together, we are Transforming Hunger into Hope!
Click here to learn more about our COVID-19 response.