Outreach and Recruitment
Volunteer outreach and recruitment in Moses Lake was done through social and traditional media outlets. The local radio station, local newspapers, and online news sources were instrumental in spreading the word about the programs leading to volunteer recruitment. Facebook has provided a great forum for both outreach and recruitment of new volunteers.
Networking and partnering with other nonprofits in the area was instrumental in integrating the Harvest Against Hunger program to Central Washington. The Moses Lake Senior Center had an existing group who worked to eliminate wasted foods and they have been a successful source of hard working volunteers that are already vested in the ideas behind Harvest Against Hunger. Church and youth groups can provide a large base of young and eager volunteers for gleaning and gardening projects, but often there are conflicts in schedules rarely allowing for large groups to attend. Working to recruit smaller groups/individuals within the youth have allowed High School Seniors doing community service, and even an Eagle Scout that has taken on building a fence around one of the giving gardens as his project.
A seed giveaway to kickoff the season and introduce Plant a Row for the Hungry provided outreach to the gardening community. The event showed the community the need for fresh foods in the emergency food network. A brief survey allowed Community Services of Moses Lake to gauge the communities need for produce and nutrition education, while also recruiting potential volunteers, many of which have served over the season. Over half of the volunteers recruited from the event were food bank clients, allowing them to begin taking their needs into their own hands, and also providing excess produce for friends, family, neighbors, and fellow food bank clients.
Volunteer Management and Appreciation
An email or a Facebook post notifies volunteers about gleaning opportunities. The day of the event volunteers meet at a central location to sign-in and receive a brief introduction of the day’s project. Carpooling is encouraged, and once the train of cars arrives at the farm quick logistics are covered like restrooms, farmer requests and a brief hands-on training. CSML recognizes that the producer is not always available for training, therefore having two or three leaders with field experience to help facilitate training is helpful. A knowledgeable leader is present at all volunteer events to ensure that all questions are answered, and that volunteers gain an understanding of the benefits of their hard work.
CSML usually only asks volunteers to work for two or three hour events. When longer events are planned, it is helpful to provide refreshments or even incorporate a potluck lunch. It is astonishing how hard a volunteer will work when they know a fresh baked cookie or bowl of hot chili awaits them! At each volunteer event take the time to individually thank and show appreciation to each volunteer or the entire group before the end of the event. Whenever possible include concrete numbers for the amount of produce collected, or recipient stories to show appreciation while highlighting the impact of volunteer efforts.
CSML found regular meetings with key volunteers provided the opportunity to gauge recovery efforts and started a strategy conversation for the direction of the next gleaning year. Plan an appreciation event at the end of the year to gather all of the volunteers and share success stories of the growing season. This brings volunteers together in one place and also affords the opportunity to discuss the good, bad, and ugly of the year and begin to look forward to the next. Take the time to make this event a fun place for volunteers to unwind, get to know each other, and share some laughs. Raffling giveaways, presenting awards, or even playing games for prizes are all easy ways to show volunteers they are valued.
Community Services of Moses Lake (CSML) strives to empower the community so that “Friends help friends feed the hungry.” CSML houses the Moses Lake Food Bank and is the distribution hub for 33 partner food banks in five counties in Central Washington. These counties include the three largest agricultural producers in Washington: Yakima, Benton and Grant counties. In 2012, CSML distributed approximately 120,000 pounds of fresh produce. With the presence of the Harvest Against Hunger VISTA in 2013, that number increased to well over 300,000 lbs. of produce. In 2014, only 68,750 pounds of produce were donated, but that number went up in 2015 with over 99,675 pounds of produce collected and distributed. Overall, CSML has collected approximately 757,155 pounds of fresh produce from farmers in the area.