Silver Gophers volunteer to help children experiencing food insecurity

Nearly 20 members of the newly formed University of Minnesota Retirees Association (UMRA) Silver Gopher Service Corps met in a Roseville warehouse in mid-April and, together with a similar number of volunteers from Target, packed more than 2,000 take-home bags of groceries for school children experiencing food insecurity. The University retirees, all members of UMRA, expressed tremendous enthusiasm for the experience.

“It was a blur of activity,” said Jan Morlock. “The best parts about the experience were meeting and working alongside other Silver Gopher Service Corps members and coming to appreciate how many children in our local schools do not have enough to eat when they are away from school.”

The food-packing event was superbly organized by the nonprofit organization Every Meal. “The two hours flew past!” commented Kristy Frost-Griep. “And I love having the Silver Gopher t-shirt!”

Terry Smith proposed the University Retirees Volunteer Center (URVC) team activity as a way of introducing URVC and UMRA to Every Meal, “hoping that the participants would be motivated to get involved as individual volunteers in the future.”

According to No Kid Hungry Minnesota, nearly 14 percent of children in Minnesota don’t have enough food for every family member to lead a healthy life.

The mission of Every Meal is to fight child hunger by focusing on filling the food gaps children face on weekends, extended breaks, and summer when they’re not able to access school meal programs. Every Meal provides children and families experiencing food insecurity with access to good food at more than 500 locations in Minnesota through multiple food gap programs.

Never a dull moment

The packing event at the Every Meal Volunteer Center in Roseville started with a 20-minute overview of the nonprofit’s business mission and process. Next, volunteers were divided into four packing lines to fill bags of food for individual students, packing six bags per box for delivery to schools. Cheryl Tincher described the lively scene:

“There was music playing in the packing room, a large ceiling fan circulating air, and a large 'scoreboard' letting us know how we were progressing toward the goal of packing 2,000 bags during our two-hour shift. The forklift would honk two short beeps each time it was stacked and ready to move a pallet of boxes to the adjoining warehouse. It was met with clapping and cheers from the workers each time it left the packing area. There was never a dull moment during our time there!”

Silver Gopher Clif Ware was impressed with the high degree of organization and preparation, plus the huge amount of food stocks and the scope of the system involved. “It was good to be involved with a worthy cause, knowing that kids would have food to eat on the weekends at home,” he added.

“I liked that Every Meal makes it a group goal rather than pitting the packing lines against each other in a competition,” Frost-Griep added. 

Their comments suggest that most of the participants plan to volunteer again. They liked being part of the Silver Gophers and having a chance to meet new people while participating in an activity that makes a meaningful difference.

—Peggy Mann Rinehart