Food And Drinks

Volunteers help keep the Orlando Food Bank running during the pandemic


ORLANDO, Florida – During the pandemic, many groups and nonprofits are relying on volunteers to keep their operations going.

What you need to know

  • Volunteers keep the Second Harvest Food Bank running
  • Many organizations have relied on the help of volunteers during the pandemic
  • 60-80 volunteers appear daily to prepare the food for distribution

Second Harvest Food Bank in Orlando has a team of volunteers to ensure the central Florida community does not go hungry. And during National Volunteer Week, they realize the vital role they play in feeding families.

“I can’t imagine not coming here,” said Brian Straub, a Second Harvest volunteer.

Straub shows up every Tuesday and Thursday to help. It’s a routine, he said, that’s always on his calendar.

“I mean, it makes my heart sad when I have to cancel one of these days,” said Straub.

Missing a day, he said, was unthinkable just six months after starting volunteering.

“I lost a couple of my jobs and thought, ‘Oh, I have to find something to do. ‘I only retired in 2018, so I just looked at websites and found Second Harvest,’ said Straub.

“Volunteers are critical to the success of our mission. Without their support, we really couldn’t do what we do,” said Mindy Ortiz, director of voluntary services at Second Harvest Food Bank.

Every day, 60 to 80 volunteers arrive to sort the food, check the expiration dates, and make sure they can meet the growing demand for food from families in need.

The organization has declined from the 150 volunteers a day they saw before the pandemic, Ortiz said, in part due to COVID restrictions and social distancing. But even with that slump, Ortiz said the pandemic made many people want to help.

“All of the people who normally came in through their corporate world came in just as individuals. I think a lot of people were tired of being at home and wanted to feel good and do something for their community, ”said Ortiz.

It is help they need. The COVID-19 crisis doubles the demand for food. Today they hand out 300,000 meals a day. Volunteers like Straub are key to keeping family food on the table.

“It is heartwarming that we are coming out and doing this, and I know when I go that we have helped the community,” said Straub.

It’s this drive to make a difference that makes Straub come back week after week in the hope that with every hour he donates, he’ll help Second Harvest get a big bite out of food insecurity.

“And I enjoyed every minute,” he said.

According to Second Harvest, there is still a very real need for more volunteers in their food bank warehouse and in their new facility, Mercy Kitchen. For more information on how to volunteer or if you need to connect with a grocery bank near you, please visit the website.


Janet Smith